Rescuers in South Wales have carried out what is believed to be the longest stretcher carry in British cave rescue history to bring an injured man to safety after he spent two days underground.
The BBC reports that the man, who had entered Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system in the Swansea Valley in Wales with a group, had fallen almost 50 feet and sustained incapacitating injuries. Navigating the cave system requires bouldering, army crawling through narrow spaces with a headlamp and walking over slick surfaces.
Members of his party were able to call for help and the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team were dispatched to the scene on Saturday afternoon. However, according to the rescue team (opens in new tab), their rescue efforts were hampered due to the nature of his injuries and the depth at which he was located.
“The extraction of an injured caver from such a complex cave system creates many challenges including negotiating small tunnels, climbs, rivers and continuously uneven ground.”
Ogof Ffynnon Ddu in the Brecon Beacons mountain range is the second longest cave in Wales at over 31 miles long and is the deepest cave in Britain at 900ft. The extraction ultimately required 300 rescuers – some of whom were involved in the 2018 Thai cave rescue – and took 54 hours to stretcher the injured man to safety.
The man, who is reported to be in his 40s and an experienced caver, has been taken to hospital for treatment for injuries which include a broken jaw and leg and spinal injuries. Rescuer Steve Thomas spoke on BBC Breakfast to report that the man is recovering well and that the incident was a simple accident that could happen to any caver.
“It’s an extensive cave and you have to be confident to be in there, which everybody was. Accidents happen. A boulder can stay in place for 10,000 years and one day it will move. That’s the way it goes. For 9,999 years it’s fine.”
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.
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