Cave diving rescue in France

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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby NZcaver » Oct 13, 2010 4:25 pm

Harald Franzen wrote:At this time, there's a big discussion "unofficially" about what's going to happen next.
The government (the prosecutor of the Republic) indicated that they would not procede to recover Erics' body.
Evelyne Establie, his widow, also indicated that she would not want other lives to be endangered to recover her husbands' body.
However, many of the cave divers here in France are indicating they would find this unacceptable, and would like to return his corpse to his family for them to have somebody to bury....

Unfortunately, this seems to be a familiar theme with a number of cave rescues/recoveries.

I hope those who make the decisions consider the will of the caving community as well as the other people involved, and the situation is resolved satisfactorily.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Harald Franzen » Oct 16, 2010 12:00 pm

Spéléo Secour Francais in the Ardèche region have decided to continue excavating to try and retrieve Eric Establie's body:

http://pscausette.plongeesout.com/viewt ... f=2&t=1734
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Juergen » Oct 17, 2010 10:12 am

There are some news in the French Media:

http://www.lepoint.fr/societe/ardeche-l ... 529_23.php

""ARDÈCHE - Le spéléologue est mort noyé le jour de sa plongée
Source AFP

Le spéléologue retrouvé noyé lundi dans les gorges de l'Ardèche après huit jours de recherches acharnées, est mort "5 h 20 min après le début de sa plongée" alors qu'il essayait de contourner un éboulis qui l'avait coincé, a annoncé, samedi, le parquet. Samedi, le pré-rapport d'expertise de l'ordinateur de plongée d'Éric Establie a permis de reconstituer le fil des événements, selon le procureur de Privas, Christophe Raffin, en charge de l'enquête. "Éric Establie est allé au-delà de la partie explorée déjà connue du boyau, à 1.040 mètres de l'entrée de la grotte. Son ordinateur enregistre soit une remontée du boyau vers la surface soit l'existence d'une poche d'air", déclaré à l'AFP le magistrat. "Il est revenu ensuite sur ses pas et s'est retrouvé devant l'éboulis", qu'il a essayé de contourner pendant "deux heures" en vain, a-t-il ajouté.

"Asphyxie ou noyade"

Christophe Raffin a confirmé la mort d'Éric Establie par "asphyxie ou noyade" en indiquant que son corps "ne portait pas de traces de blessure, de choc ou de trauma" qui auraient pu être consécutifs à l'éboulis. Sur une éventuelle remontée du corps, aucune décision n'a encore été prise. Parti le 3 octobre au matin explorer une grotte plongeant dans le lit de la source de la Dragonnière à Labastide-de-Virac pour réaliser un nouveau relevé topographique, Éric Establie avait été bloqué à son retour par un éboulement à 780 mètres de l'entrée et 46 mètres de profondeur. Il a été retrouvé noyé huit jours plus tard, 70 mètres après l'éboulis, par deux plongeurs britanniques. Scaphandrier de profession, Éric Establie, 45 ans, dirigeait une société de travaux maritimes et sous-marins à Cannes.""

According to my very poor French this means that Eric had died 5h 20 min after he had started his dive. This information was taken from his diving computer which John (one of the 2 English divers) could take with him after they found his body last Monday. The recovery of his computer was also reported in the German Caving Forum by one of the participating Swiss divers. He confirmed that really everything had been tried to rescue Eric.

If this information from AFP is confirmed it means that Eric never really had a chance. Like all of us I had really hoped that he could be rescued alive. Condolences to family, friends, and rescuers.

Regards, Jürgen
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 17, 2010 3:09 pm

According to the AFP report Jürgen mentioned, the analysis of the dive computer recovered from Eric Establie's body showed that Eric died 5 hours and 20 minutes after the start of his dive, while trying to find a way through the obstruction that trapped him on his way out of the cave. Also according to the computer, Eric went beyond the known 1040 meters of cave. His computer then recorded either an ascent of the passage towards the surface, or the existence of an air bell. Then he turned around and on his way out, encountered the obstruction due to the landslide. For his last two hours, he tried to find a way around it, in vain.

The cause of Eric's death was confirmed to be asphixiation or drowning. There was no sign of shock or trauma, nor of any wound that could have been caused by having been caught in the landslide.

-Yvonne (I am now in Switzerland for a week, and will not be online much)
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Harald Franzen » Oct 25, 2010 7:30 am

I have taken the liberty to copy a message from another list. The message was written by Anton van Rosmalen -we know each other and I am quite sure he wont mind:


Hi guys,

As most of you probably know French cavediver Eric Establie died in the Dragonniere de Gaud cave in the Ardèche. Eric was a very experienced cave diver whose lines and cave maps many on this list probably have followed while diving in France. Furthermore he participated in several recue and/or recovery attempts.

During several days various attempts have been made te rescue Eric who was believed to be still alive at that time. His body was eventually discovered by Rick Stanton and John Volanthen 200 meters behind a cave-in at a depth of 70 meters after which the government decided to stop further attempts recover the body.

Volunteers from Speleo Secours have decided to continue the body recovery attempts at their own cost in order to return the body to his widow and his 14 year old son.

Eric's body is located 900 meters from the entrance and cannot be removed through the restriction. Speleo secours wants to widen a nearby shaft using explosives which is believed to lead to the dry part of the Dragonniere and recover the body this way.

Maps of the shaft can be found here: http://www.speleo-secours-francais.com/ ... 995b897bdc and here: http://www.speleo-secours-francais.com/ ... 995b897bdc .

Looks like they have a long way to go...

On their website Speleo Secours has asked for people to participate in the recovery either by providing their knowledge or financially.

Any donations and the original version of my probably poorly translated message from French can be made here: http://www.speleo-secours-francais.com/ ... Itemid=182.

Regards,


Anton
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby apitkin » Oct 25, 2010 4:51 pm

It would be great if they could set up a Paypal account or something similar, as I'm sure there are many like me who would like to donate from outside Europe but don't want to have to pay bank transfer fees on top.

I presume there is no possibility at all of an in-water recovery, even if his equipment is removed?

Andy
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Harald Franzen » Oct 26, 2010 4:07 am

apitkin wrote:It would be great if they could set up a Paypal account or something similar, as I'm sure there are many like me who would like to donate from outside Europe but don't want to have to pay bank transfer fees on top.

I presume there is no possibility at all of an in-water recovery, even if his equipment is removed?

Andy


Hi Andy!

I got the tip for a paypal account from Norway too, so I have passed it on to Spéléo Sécours Francais. I hope they will be able to set it up quickly; will keep you posted!

As for the in water recovery: the dive just to get there is massive and then they cannot pass the point where the cave is blocked unless on side mount rebreather (!).
So that's why it is really not feasible to do it this way and it would induce massive risk to those attempting it too.
Hence the excavation.

Cheers,

Harald
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby wyandottecaver » Oct 26, 2010 7:43 am

too bad the govt dropped out. I wonder if you could set a few underwater demolitions to destabilize the blockage and hope the current does the rest for you.
I'm not scared of the dark, it's the things IN the dark that make me nervous. :)
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby paul » Oct 26, 2010 12:27 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:too bad the govt dropped out. I wonder if you could set a few underwater demolitions to destabilize the blockage and hope the current does the rest for you.


Unlikeley. On Sunday I was talking to the guy who co-ordinated getting the Brit cave divers flown over to France to help (there aren't many cave divers capable of operating in such a dive). It's a very difficult and technical dive. Not only a long dive but with quite large changes in depth during the dive. Also the visibilty was only of the order of a metre or so.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 28, 2010 10:44 pm

The solidarity digging efforts organized by the Speleo Secours Francais and the caving group of the Ardeche in order to retrieve Eric's body from the Dragonniere began on Saturday October 23. Teams of volunteers are working their way down from the plateau. They had stopped at -78m (in what is now called the Puits de la Ronze) when the rescue operations were called off after Eric was found dead on October 11. Since Saturday, teams have been working every day, hampered by bad air (high CO2) and super tight passages. A few pits were encountered (5m, 7m, 8m, 17m, 22m), the last of which brought them to the -120 meter level according to the survey. Unfortunately, the bottom of that pit was plugged, only allowing water to get through. However, a lead was found a bit higher up, with the air, and that is what is now being followed (as of Wednesday evening). This passage is extremely tight and difficult to pursue, but it's being widened, painstakingly. How long will it continue like this? It's not possible to see. A 220-volt electric cable has now been installed in order to facilitate drilling, and to avoid having to constantly shuttle fresh drill batteries. A telephone line has also been installed, and electric fans are helping to bring fresh air to the dig front.

Pictures and details in French at:
http://www.speleo-secours-francais.com/ ... Itemid=182

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 29, 2010 10:22 am

Update on the progress achieved on Thursday Oct 28 in the Puits de Ronze dig: the mission was to continue widening the tight meander in the 20-meter pit, and it’s been widened for 5 meters now. At the same time, other passages were again thoroughly checked for leads. A climb was done in the 13-meter pit. It ascended 23 meters, but then pinched out. The bottom of the cave is still intriguing. After gas levels were found to be OK, four cavers dropped down to the bottom of the terminal pit and searched for possibilities. A few were found to be interesting, in particular one that seems to indicate a void behind it. It was decided to give this lead the priority, at least for now. The electric cable was brought down as well as the phone line. Some explosives were used to open up the lead, which is at the -125 m level.

Weather changes outside are influencing ventilation in the cave. In spite of thousands of cubic meters of air injected into the cave, the level of CO2 rose in the final pit. Alerted by their gas detectors, the diggers climbed up by a dozen meters. This inversion of air currents depending on climactic conditions is well known by cavers.

This however had immediate repercussions: work had to stop for as long as the ventilating fans’ force cannot counter this inversion. Therefore, on Friday morning, the power to these fans was again increased.

(I will be away caving this weekend, and will update y’all again on Sunday eve, unless someone else gets to it first.)

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Squirrel Girl » Oct 29, 2010 5:25 pm

Barbara Anne am Ende

"Weird people are my people."
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Harald Franzen » Oct 30, 2010 3:14 am

I am happy to be able to tell you that Spéléo Sécours Francais have set up a PayPal account.
Should you like to contribute to the recovery of Eric Establie's body, you can now do so in a quick and efficient manner.
The link is here: http://www.speleo-secours-francais.com/ ... Itemid=182

Best regards,

Harald
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 31, 2010 9:26 pm

On Friday October 29th, work continued in the Puits de Ronze. After checking the CO2 levels, debris from the last shots were cleared out then widening was restarted at the bottom of the cave. Again bad air put a stop to the efforts. While waiting, the teams go up a few meters higher in the cave and look for new passages. A little network of passages was found at the base of the 20 m pit, which led to a 7 m pit, but it was unfortunately blind.

While the rescue was happening, a cave had been spotted in the cliff overlooking the Ardèche River. This cave, named L1, is 70 m above the entrance to the Dragonnière. A team went in to recheck this possibility. A narrow passage was widened and exploration continued until CO2 forced their retreat. Since this cave blows air, it is suspected that the CO2 might be coming from the Puits de Ronze, and by comparing the levels, a correlation could be made between the two caves. This will be checked on Saturday, and if the levels are reasonable, exploration can then continue.

On Friday evening, weather forecasts called for strong rains on Saturday, so it was decided to send in a team to work all night, ahead of the storm. Widening continued at the upper level of the 20 m pit. A very muddy passage only 1 foot tall by 20 inches wide is now visible ahead. It’s not a great prospect, but most of the air passes through this window, and therefore it was decided to alternate between widening this lead and the lead at the bottom of the cave.

On Saturday morning, October 30th, a fresh team descended to clear out debris from the bottom of the cave. Further widening eventually allowed to glimpse a narrow meander, with a promising echo.

However on the surface the weather conditions rapidly deteriorated. At 10 am, all teams were asked to exit the cave. The vineyard was getting flooded, and with permission from the owner, a dirt retaining wall was built to funnel the torrent of water away from the entrance of the pit.

The plan is to have volunteers continue working every day until mid-November. If by then the objective has not been reached, then work will continue only on the weekends.

There are photos of the flood at the Spéléo Secours site.

Sunday October 31st: Unofficially, I heard that work was not possible today. The field is totally flooded and water is pouring into the Puits de Ronze, creating a lake above the entrance. The cave is now 135 m deep.

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 1, 2010 4:51 pm

Sunday October 31 was a very rough day. Rain continued non-stop. There is a lot of water in the vineyard, ruts are destroying the land, and so the earthen dam that channeled the water away from the Puits de Ronze had to be breached. The waters inundated the entrance, creating a vortex over the access point. There are worries for the gear and tools that were left in the cave but there is no way to intervene.

On this All Saints Day, the mayor of Labastide together with Eric’s wife Evelyne and his son Arthur placed some white flowers on the site of the accident.

On Monday, if conditions permit, a team will descend into the cave to inspect and exchange gear and tools. The team will need to be extremely careful during their descent.

-Yvonne
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