Rescue efforts for five men trapped in Cyclops Cave in the town of Cleveland, located in southwest Virginia, concluded Sunday evening after the men were rescued. The rescue took several hours. The first man was rescued Sunday afternoon after 3:00 p.m. and a second man soon after; all five men were rescued by 7:00 p.m.
“Russell County Emergency Management told local media that the trapped men are weak, hypothermic and unable to climb out of the cave,” reported Fox News as rescue efforts began.
One man, 22, was able to escape Sunday around 2 a.m. and call 911.
The men range in age from 34-59. They first went into the cave Friday evening. A verticle ledge between the outside of the cave and the area where the men were trapped meant a second rescue team needed to come in from Radford, Virginia and repel down and save the men individually.
CNN reported, “‘Four of the men were taken to a local hospital,’ said Jess Powers, emergency management coordinator for Russell County. The other man was taken to Bristol Regional Medical Center in Tennessee.”
A Camping Trip Gone Wrong
According to NBC News the cave is approximately seven miles long, but the men were not far inside. Caves in the area stretch nine miles deep.
The men intended to camp in the cave, a popular destination despite being on private property. When it began to rain around 11 p.m. on Saturday night the men changed their minds, but it was too slippery to leave. They grew too weak to climb out of the cave. At about 2 a.m., the youngest of the men emerged to seek help for the others.
“Certainly we’re hoping for the best and that we can get them warmed up, get them moving, get them some energy back and get them out under their own power, but we’re still waiting to see what that situation will entail,” Billy Chrimes, search and rescue coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, told CNN during the rescue.
Cellular and radio frequencies will not transmit in the cave, so rescuers had to make multiple trips to report back on the rescue strategy.
“They were not prepared for the conditions of the cave.” Chrimes said, according to The Weather Channel. “They didn’t have a lot of extra food and water with them.”
Caving can be Dangerous
Virginia is one of the top caving states in the US. Cyclops Cave, where the men are trapped, is located in southwest Virginia. There are thousands of caverns and caves visited recreationally in the region.
“Experienced cavers travel to southwest Virginia for the vertical systems; the repelling, climbing, and vertical shafts dropping hundreds of feet. This makes caving a very dangerous endeavor,” reports The Roanoker:
Exploring caves can be extremely dangerous, so going with an experienced trip leader is highly recommended. A helmet and three sources of light are standard equipment for any trip. Going in a group and having a solid sing-out plan are essential. Let someone know exactly where you are going and what time you will be back. If you are not back by that time, your friend will be calling one of the above caving clubs to find you and pull you out.