TRIBUTES were paid last night to a 14-year-old boy who died after water levels began to rise suddenly during a school caving trip.

Joseph Lister was part of a group from Tadcaster Grammar School learning the basic principles of caving in Upper Nidderdale, North Yorkshire, on the first day of an annual school trip.

Rescuers found the year ten pupil about 250m from the entrance of Manchester Hole, part of the Goyden Pot system, on Monday night.

He was taken to the surface suffering from acute hypothermia and died in Harrogate District Hospital, with his parents at his bedside, later that night.

The incident comes less than two weeks after ministers published plans to encourage more school trips, which included a guarantee for every pupil to have the chance to attend at least one residential trip during their time at school.

Joseph, from Steeton, near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, was one of 100 13 and 14-year-old students from the school on a week-long visit to the Bewerley Park Outdoor Education Centre - run by North Yorkshire County Council.

The students, accompanied by nine teachers, were divided into smaller groups with instructors from the centre, and Joseph's group of 11 children went into the caves, which are described as a "fairly easy and comfortable" introduction to caving.

They decided to come out when the water started to rise. It is at that point he is believed to have become separated from the others.

His headteacher, Geoff Mitchell, described the youngster as a larger-than-life character "with an infectious smile and glint in his eye".

He said: "He was incredibly popular with the people, not only in his form and in his year group, but across the school.

"He was a slightly larger-than-life character who would bounce along into your room.

"He was an absolute delight and our heart goes out to the family.

"He took sport very seriously - he lived for the game of football. He took his work more and more seriously as he moved through the school, and he got a sense of purpose that he was going to be successful - and tragically that's been taken away from him.

"There is a tremendous sense of grief in the school. The school feels as if it's missing a beat of its heart."

A police investigation into the cause of Joseph's death is under way, and officers have begun questioning staff at the centre. Teenagers in Joseph's group will also be interviewed.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said the alarm was raised at 4.10pm on Monday when it was believed Joseph became trapped by rising water in Manchester Hole.

Teams from Wharfedale Fell Rescue were sent to the cave, and at 5.35pm his "lifeless" body was recovered and rushed to the hospital. Joseph was pronounced dead shortly after 10pm.

Pupils were brought back from the outdoor centre on Monday night and were told of Joseph's death with their parents in the school hall.

Children, staff and parents were offered counselling in the school library yesterday, and a book of condolences has been started.

Cynthia Welbourn, North Yorkshire County Council's corporate director of education, declined to comment on the circumstances of the tragedy.

But she said that the centre had an excellent safety record, adding: "I do have confidence in the centre.

"I also know that a youngster died yesterday and we need to understand how and why in order that we do not miss anything at all."

The centre will be closed for the remainder of the week, at least. The Health and Safety Executive has been informed.

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