Crew working to free man stuck in cave

November 25, 2009 5:41:30 PM PST
Rescuers chipped away with air-powered tools in a narrow tunnel Wednesday to free a man trapped upside down about 150 feet below ground in a popular Utah cave. Utah County sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said John Jones, 26, of Stansbury Park, became stuck about 700 feet into the narrow cave, known as Nutty Putty, at about 9 p.m. Tuesday while spelunking with a group of about 11 people.

Jones was stuck with his head below his feet in an L-shaped area of the cave known as "Bob's Push" that is only about 18 inches wide and 10 inches high for about 19 hours, Cannon said.

Jones was finally freed from that position Wednesday afternoon, but Cannon said Jones remained in a confined space and it would be several hours before he was freed.

Cannon said Jones is about six feet tall and weighs between 180 and 200 pounds.

Niki Yeaton, clinicial nurse coordinator for University Hospital's emergency department, said anyone who has been upside down as long as Jones could suffer from a rush of blood to the head that leads to confusion and nausea, and possibly passing out.

"I can't imagine at all that he would be comfortable," she said.

Cannon said rescue crews have been able to get water to Jones and that he's in no danger of dehydration.

"They told me he's pretty weak right now. Along with that, I can almost tell you with certainty from other experiences he'll be sore for some time. The kinds of conditions we see when they come out is muscle fatigue when you've had a body in one position for an extended period of time," he said.

Nutty Putty cave is actually a hole on the top of hill about seven miles west of State Road 68, about 80 miles south of Salt Lake City. The naturally formed thermal cave is about 1,500 feet long. Its multiple, tunnels and passageways lead to room-like openings, a Web site for Utah cave-enthusiasts explains.

According to the official Nutty Putty cave Web site, the area was first discovered in 1960. The cave is privately owned by Utah's State Trust Land Administration. An access pass is required to explore the cave, with usage restricted to about six groups daily.

The county's last rescue there was in 2004.

Cannon said officials considered closing the tunnel or sealing it off after the last rescue but ultimately decided to erect a gate that requires a key for entry.

"We've had people stuck in this exact same spot. We're working and working to get him undone out of the spot and we don't really have any way of predicting what's gonna happen until -- boom, all the sudden they're out," he said.


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