Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby ArCaver » Dec 14, 2009 3:32 pm

In the families reposted message it was stated Jones was backing up when his upper body fell into a narrow tube. Is that accurate or was he trying to crawl down this "tube"? When the cave rescue folks finish their final report will it be posted here? If not would it be possible for someone to send me a copy. I have no other interest except to make myself safer by learning from this accident and subsequent rescue attempt.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby onebat » Dec 14, 2009 3:41 pm

Perhaps it will be posted in the NSS Cave Accidents Reports. Not sure how often that magazine comes out though.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby wyandottecaver » Dec 14, 2009 5:43 pm

I too have to agree with the others on the fact that:
#1 if you say it, be prepared to own it.
#2 specifically, how do you think the rescuers "killed him" in this case?
#3 Even if the rescuers had made serious errors which resulted in an unfortunate outcome (which I am not saying did or did not happen) the fact is rescue personnel can only improve on a situation the victim created. However well or poorly trained the group is, they are simply dealing with the circumstances the victim and the cave give them. The better trained the group, the better their odds of helping a victim, but it would be wrong IMHO to say they killed anyone even if a technical mistake (of which none have yet been discussed I know of) did occur. Rescuers can be unsuccessful in saving a victim through a variety of causes...that doesnt equate to killing them.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Scott McCrea » Dec 14, 2009 6:19 pm

From what I read, some of the best cavers and well-trained rescuers in Utah the US the world were on the front lines in that cave.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Evan G » Dec 14, 2009 8:04 pm

Scott McCrea wrote:From what I read, some of the best cavers and well-trained rescuers in Utah the US the world were on the front lines in that cave.


That did not need to be said, because whether they're the best or the worst ... people showed up to the rescue.

To all... Here in the Mountain West we grow up with the understanding that going into a cave, climbing a mountain, going hunting, or drive a long stretch of highway with sometimes 100 miles between towns that something could happen to extinguish life. I'm proud to know that people that are apart of the NSS and those that are not, are willing to show up and help in the Nutty Putty Rescue or any rescue in the mountain west. I will never expected someone to show up because I "need" a rescue nor would blame them for not being able, I'm thankful for them ......... for them being alive and trying to help me....period. The day that a person blames SAR or anyone lending a hand, is a sad day indeed. Remember all the people that gave extra water, food, carbide, anything to continue and make life without an epic, without a rescue in a cave, on a hike or whatever creates us to be all rescuers and rescuee's. Sometimes just the respect of the caving group and listening to each other will save lives.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Stridergdm » Dec 15, 2009 8:54 am

I have a general rule of trying to not respond immediately to posts that get my ire up. If after a good night's sleep I still feel the need to respond, I then do.

In the case of both of Larry E. Matthews posts, I have to agree with the responses, but sleep has tempered my response a bit and I'd like to move the discussion forward. I'm curious to know what exactly he considers a "real Cave Rescue Team" and how they would have made a difference in that situation.

In most parts of the country there is no such thing as a "real Cave Rescue Team". There are however numbers of dedicated volunteers who, through their own efforts and generally own money, have received NCRC rescue training. In fact, many have also received additional training, often again on their own time and dime. But they are not necessarily a member of any "real team" that has regular training, receives money or equipment from outside sources or even has the opportunity to actually effect a rescue more than once a year.

Also, if Mr. Matthews' comment about a Stokes is accurate, I would question that "real Cave Rescue Team's" credentials. Stokes are generally considered a very poor choice for a cave rescue and typically are only used because the local above ground fire and rescue squad had nothing better on their truck.

The reality is, a crack and crevice entrapment is perhaps one of the most dangerous accidents that can occur on a cave. Give me a broken leg at the bottom of a multi-pitch drop any day.

Many of you here may recall the Craig Douglas rescue at Keyhole Cave. This rescue began on a Saturday afternoon and continued until Monday morning when he was finally out of the cave (clean-up took a bit longer). This rescue required over 70 people below ground and scores more above ground. And the reality is, things could have had a very different outcome at many points. There was a lot of skill involved, but also a lot of luck. In many ways Craig is VERY lucky to be alive.

The doctors here can confirm how bad it is medically to have your head down in a compromised position like that. Combine that with issues such as hypothermia, lack of water and food and possibly compartment syndrome, it's a very bad situation. Now add in lack of access, a tight bend and other factors.

From everything I've read, the rescuers made every effort to save Jones's life. It's tragic that they couldn't and many of them will most likely be suffering from some form of PTSD, either now or in the future.

That said, I'm quite sure that at the appropriate time they will sit down with others and discuss what happened, what they tried and what they didn't try. Lessons learned here will hopefully be applied to future training and future rescues.

But to sit from a distance and criticize their efforts and then get upset when someone calls you on it is both arrogant and hypocritical. I note you appear to be an author of some note in the caving community and have contributed often in the past here on cavechat. I would hope you'd consider how your comments were received and the impact they had on people.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Tim White » Dec 15, 2009 1:19 pm

OK...time to move on :please:
Be safe,
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Dec 16, 2009 5:11 pm

Stridergdm wrote:I have a general rule of trying to not respond immediately to posts that get my ire up. If after a good night's sleep I still feel the need to respond, I then do.
But to sit from a distance and criticize their efforts and then get upset when someone calls you on it is both arrogant and hypocritical. I note you appear to be an author of some note in the caving community and have contributed often in the past here on cavechat. I would hope you'd consider how your comments were received and the impact they had on people.

Thank you for that.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Larry E. Matthews » Dec 17, 2009 1:55 pm

I hadn't read this column in about a week, but let me answer the question about "What is a real Cave Rescue Team".

From my viewpoint: Here in Tennessee, we are forced to use whatever Rescue Team the local Sheriff dicatates. So, in several instances here, we have had people who I am sure are dedicated, hard-working, responsible, really nice people, but who have had no training in cave rescue, sent to perform cave rescues. They are great above ground rescue people, and they train hard to do that. But, they are not cavers and have not trained for cave rescue.

To me a Cave Rescue Team is people like the Chattanooga Cave and Cliff Rescue Team which is made up mostly of volunteers, but who take certified courses in cave rescue and practice on a regular basis.

About ten, or more, years ago, I was leading a trip through Big Bone Cave here in Tennessee and an older woman broke her leg (we thought it was a sprain, at the time). I exited the cave to call the Chattanooga Rescue Team, but the Park Ranger had to FIRST call the Sheriff, due to our local laws. The Sheriff sent out 6 Bubbas, with 2 flashlights, tennis shoes, and no hard hats. They went in the cave and tried to drag the victim out on a blanket. And, she was a mile into the cave. Honest. This is so bad, I couldn't make this up. We were lucky to get her out without further injuries.

In another case (See pages 102 - 107 of "Caves of Chattanooa"), a scuba diver who had become lost in Nickajace Cave, Tennessee, almost died because the local Rescue Team would not let the Chattanooga Cave Rescue Team into the cave for perhaps a day (I forget the exact time frame.) He nearly died of hypothermia, waiting to be rescued in an air pocket.

Also, the reference to the Stokes Liter was made regarding a rescue perhaps 25 years ago. I realise equipment has changed since then, but that was state-of-the art at that time.

So, I was making an off-the-cuff remark, based on the information I read on line and seen on TV. I wasn't trying to slam the rescue people, but just thought that perhaps Utah had the same problems we have here in Tennessee.

I didn't mean to ruffle anybody's feathers and did not mean to intentionally insult anyone. I'm sorry some of you took it that way.

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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby onebat » Dec 17, 2009 7:07 pm

Larry,
I remember that Big Bone Cave trip! I was also on that trip. At one point during the rescue I remember that they were going to throw the victim over their shoulders and carry her like a sack of potatoes down a climb down! : O
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby onebat » Dec 17, 2009 7:19 pm

PS. Also no offense to anyone. I realize that they were doing the best they could with the knowledge and training that they had. They had some training in fire rescue, but not cave rescue. I think since then some had expressed interest in getting some caving training.
It would be wonderful if all areas (small towns) had trained cave rescuers, but that is not always possible and so we have to rely on whomever is willing to take the time to help, and for those people, I am grateful.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Dec 17, 2009 7:40 pm

I can only speak as a former trainee of the Cave SAR team that was on site but as I remember my training taught that protocol dictates that 911 be called FIRST then the Cave Rescue Team (who will probably get a call from the county responding anyway but at least a quick response by the liaison officer to the current senior officer of the cave rescue team to initiate standby call outs to active members) ... the team has coordinated an agreement with nearly every county (if not all) in Utah (that is populated with caves... not all are) their own "County SAR team" and has trained (mock rescue call-out practices) with a number of them on more than one occasion. The county teams are well aware of the resources (which is what the UCS&R team is) that are available to them if there is someone needing help in a cave. The Utah County Sheriff's dept. does have at least one or two NCRC trained personnel on their own team. It has been and I imagine always will be up to the IC to determine who gets called out to the scene or not... usually the IC would be the Sheriff themselves or a designated party.
I would imagine that it is the same in other cave-rich states.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Bill Putnam » Dec 18, 2009 12:27 am

Some situations are simply not survivable, no matter who the rescuers are or how they are trained or what equipment they have.

I have had the opportunity to talk at length with some of the cavers who were there, and who were in the cave for many hours working to free John Jones, and I have concluded for my own belief that this was probably a non-survivable incident from the very beginning. We can never know for sure, of course, but I have been involved in cave rescue for almost 30 years and after hearing the details from people who were there in the cave, I can't think of anything that they could have done or tried to do that would have made any difference. It's terribly sad, but that's just how it goes sometimes. I have seen similar situations before. They are heartbreaking, but they do happen.

There are a number of situations in which a caver can be at great risk of death or serious injury simply by being stranded or immobile. For example, being suspended head-down for a prolonged period can also be fatal. So can being suspended immobile in a seat harness. And as we have seen in a number of cases, being stuck in a tight passage for an extended period places a caver a great risk of death by hypothermia. If one of these situations occurs and no one can get to the stranded caver to help, he or she is at extreme risk.

Entrapment is an immediate life emergency. It is also a very insidious one, because the person often seems at first to be in no immediate danger. "He's just stuck." But while he's stuck, he's dying. The ability to move is essential to life.

John did something that most experienced cavers would probably not do (or hopefully learn not to do) - he entered a body-tight crawlway head first without being sure that he could turn around or back out. That can be fatal, even if the passage is completely horizontal, because any entrapment leaves you in full-body contact with the cave walls and floor, leading directly to hypothermia. This can and does happen even in moderate temperatures (60-70 degrees F) such as those found in Nutty Putty Cave. The classic case of death by hypothermia in a cave is that of Floyd Collins, and every caver should know that story and be mindful of it.

I am told that the crawl in which John was trapped does not start out going steeply down, but rather goes, in, up, and around a bend before turning downward at a steep angle. Anyone with an affinity for crawls might have gone into and pushed such a passage, hoping to find a new part of the cave, or larger passage beyond. There are apparently several additional constrictions within the body-tight passage, however, and people have reportedly been stuck at some of these points in the past, well before the point where John was found. Once you are in a passage like that, your body fills it up to the point where no one can get past your feet or lower legs. That situation places you at great risk if you become incapacitated in any way. Being head-down exacerbates an already bad situation.

From the accounts of his companions, I gather that John had some awareness of his predicament before becoming completely stuck, and was already struggling to try to back up and out of the passage when he lost his grip and slipped further in. As I understand it, at that point he was already several body lengths into the passage beyond the first major constriction - the place where a previous rescue had occurred. Why he chose to push forward so far before deciding to back out can probably never be known, but it is a tragic lesson for all cavers. This could have happened to any one of us who made the decision to push on in hopes of virgin cave, or in the expectation of finding a turn-around spot. It is not fair to blame John for doing something that most of us have also done at some point in our caving careers - going a bit too far before deciding to back out.

As to the decision to leave John's body in the cave rather than recover it, I have little to say that would be helpful. I simply hope that his family is still comfortable with that decision, and I am glad that the way that the cave was closed leaves room for the possibility of a later recovery of his remains if the family decides that they want to pursue that.

It is also unfair to second guess the rescuers. From what I have been able to determine, they definitely had appropriate equipment, training, skills, and organization. They did everything that their collective experience and expertise could come up with in the particular circumstances that existed at Nutty Putty Cave. That it was not enough to save John is not their fault, in my opinion, and I believe I have studied and worked in the field of cave rescue enough to be confident in that conclusion.

Cave rescue in America has come a long, long way in the last 20 years. While it is certainly true that there are many local rescue squads in cave-rich areas that do not include any cavers or do not have specific cave rescue training and equipment, the situation is still much, much better than it used to be. For example, there is greater cooperation and coordination among cavers, cave rescue teams, local rescue squads, and state or federal emergency management agencies. The Nutty Putty incident is a case in point - the local rescue squad as well as the regional cave rescue team (Utah Cave Search and Rescue) includes NCRC-trained people, as well as people with mountain rescue and technical rope rescue training. They also called upon local cavers and cavers from around the region, many of whom had NCRC training. While that training is not intended to be the be-all & end-all of cave rescue, it does serve several important purposes, not least of which is that it provides a common framework and vocabulary to allow many people from different teams, groups, and organizations to come together and work toward the common goal with a minimum of confusion and conflict.

It was not always this way. I was there and I saw it when it was not this way. We owe a big debt to the NCRC and the people who have created and provided all the training and resources that many of us now take for granted.

It has been my opinion for some time, however, that the NCRC does not do enough to publicize and market its training seminars and classes to NSS members. The NCRC is a commission of the NSS, and we are its core constituency - its primary customers, if you will. But many of us are not aware of its offerings, and few of us take advantage of them. Rescue workers from outside the caving community often make up half or more of the students at NCRC seminars. I hope that those of you reading this will consider attending the National week-long seminar in Mentone, Alabama in May, or one of the regional seminars being held around the country in 2010. They are very accessible and affordable, costing about one-tenth as much as a commercial rope rescue or technical rescue seminar with similar scope and content. That is because all the instructors are volunteers, and the entire seminar is run as a non-profit educational program. The training has been developed by cavers, for cavers, and is taught primarily by active cavers and cave rescuers with a wealth of experience.

I realize that spending a week of your limited vacation or personal time attending an NCRC seminar has a serious impact on your free time. And I also realize that $500 is a lot of money for many of us, even though that covers a week of food and lodging as well as the training itself. But consider this - what is the value of your life, or the life of your friend or family member? Any of us could get hurt or stuck in a cave on any given weekend. Sometimes accidents just happen, even to the most skilled and careful cavers. NCRC training will help you to be prepared when they do. That could be priceless.

I believe that any caver who has ever attended an NCRC training seminar or class will tell you that he or she got something worthwhile from it, even if it was just the opportunity to meet and train with other caver rescuers and get some practice with the techniques and equipment.

Check it out: http://www.ncrc.info
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby JoeyS » Dec 18, 2009 1:10 am

Wow.
Very informative. Thanks Bill.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby MUD » Dec 18, 2009 10:47 am

Great post Bill! :kewl:
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