Monday, April 23, 2007

[trip] Simmons-Mingo Rescue

At 4:40AM, the morning of Monday, April 23, 2007, I got a call from Doug Moore that there was a cave rescue callout at Simmons-Mingo Cave. Brian Masney, Josh Flaugher, and I rounded up our gear and headed South. We arrived at the historic entrance and were instructed to go to the Zarathrusa entrance and do a through trip, sweeping the cave for 5 lost cavers who had attempted a through trip from the same entrance on Saturday morning.

We arrived at the Zarathrusa entrance where Jason Thomas was waiting, but no one else was present. As we got geared up, a group of cavers and a communication team arrived and prepared to lay down telephone line behind us. We were in cave by about 10:30am and started doing whistle calls and checking side leads as we headed in the direction of the other end of the cave.

Eventually we made it to a steep muddy slope leading to an enormous lake. We were unable to find a way around, and the map that we were provided offered no help. We decided that the most prudent action would be to head back to the comm team as fast as possible for better directions. We made it all the way back to the entrance without encountering them - a hint that something was up.

Everyone climbed out the nasty Zarathrusa entrance, and there was nobody topside on the Dry Branch. We jumped in our vehicle and drove to the historic entrance, where we were very happily greeted. The lost cavers had been found within 1000 feet of the historic entrance, less than half an hour after we'd gone underground. Four of the cavers were already topside under their own power, and the fifth was currently being hauled out on a litter. The rescue crew was elated to see us because they'd expected that they'd have to wait there for us to complete the through trip.

By afternoon, the rescue operation had become extremely organized and more than 60 people had showed up to volunteer help. Three of the rescued cavers were taken to a hospital via ambulance, and another was flown via helicopter to be treated for mild hypothermia. All five returned home safely that night.

See also: Simmons-Mingo rescue on the NSS discussion forum, photos by Brian Masney

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