This was the first accident involving the apparent failure of a red-point machine at the Westway. The climber fell 8m to the ground. Four witnesses said that the climber was correctly attached to the machine. The climber lost conciousness. On coming round he said that he could not understand what had happened as he had done everything properly.
The machine had been serviced and certified in accordance with the manufacturers instructions. The next certified service was due August 2007. The machine was visually checked on a daily basis for irregularities in the tapes, the running of the machine, and the action of the braking mechanism. The working mechanism can only be checked by the service engineers.
James Nichols from Enterprises UK (website), who distribute the red-point auto-belayer, has inspected the machine and found no visual and external abnormalities. It is now in the hands of the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Environmental Health Department Office who will be conducting an investigation.
The machine appeared to work perfectly after the fall. Entreprises UK will make an official announcement after MSA Rose have reported back to them.
Some walls in the UK have retired their auto-belay machines until this official announcement has been made.
A thread was started at the Walls forum at UKClimbing.com. John Gibbons of the Westway Climbing Centre has issued an official statement there.
There is no detailed information on the condition of the climber involved. We are awaiting word of his condition and our thoughts are with him.