A SCHOOLGIRL today told how she thought she was going to sink to her death after tumbling 30ft into a muddy, drained and disused canal.

The accident sparked a major rescue operation involving police, fire crews, paramedics and mountain rescue teams who were scrambled to the scene at Hill Top Lane, Whittle-le-Woods.

Lucy Parker, 13, of Watkin Road, Whittle-le-Woods, was walking along a footpath close to the drop with her 10-year-old friend Coral Latham.

Lucy dropped her purse into the disused canal which is beside Whittle Hill Quarries.

Holding on to each other's hands they tried to edge down the steep slope before slipping and falling 30ft into the mud.

"I thought I was going to die," said Lucy who attends Brownedge St Mary's High School in Bamber Bridge.

"The mud was up to my thighs and I couldn't move. I didn't know how deep it was. I was scared of dying. I was shouting 'help me I am sinking'.

"We were trying to grab hold of branches to get ourselves out but because they were so old they kept on snapping. It was really frightening."

Coral managed to scramble out and used a mobile phone to alert the emergency services.

Teams from the Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team, supported by rope teams from Lancashire Fire and Rescue, spent 45 minutes getting help to the youngster.

Now both sets of parents have banned their children from the area surrounding the quarry.

The stretch of canal is owned by Peter Higham, of Hill Top Lane. He has tried to prevent children from playing in his land previously.

Her said: "They shouldn't be there because it is fenced. I warn them to stay away because it is dangerous."

Whittle-le-Woods councillor Eric Bell said: "The kids were playing in a spot where they shouldn't have been. It is a problem we have in Whittle."

Sgt Eddie Newton, of Lancashire Police, said: "This was private land and we would urge parents to remind their children about making sure they do not wander off or play in areas which are not safe."

Lucy is recovering at home with an injured leg following Sunday night's incident.