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 Caverdale » Nov 27, 2009 6:10 pm

Somehow I missed the Salt Lake Tribune's article on the same subject. It states that Nutty Putty Cave will indeed be John Jones' final resting place, i.e. grave, and that the cave will be permanently sealed. See:
http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_13879115
This is not the proper action. "Sic transit gloria mundi"
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby NZcaver » Nov 27, 2009 7:10 pm

Caverdale wrote:Somehow I missed the Salt Lake Tribune's article on the same subject. It states that Nutty Putty Cave will indeed be John Jones' final resting place, i.e. grave, and that the cave will be permanently sealed.

This would be a very poor decision in my opinion, and I would think a little unfair on his family and loved ones. Remember Schroeder's Pants Cave in New York? (See here and here.)

After the initial reports yesterday, I was surprised and saddened to learn today that this rescue was unsuccessful. My condolences to his family and friends.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby ArCaver » Nov 27, 2009 8:00 pm

Caverdale wrote:The powers in charge just announced that all efforts to remove the body from Nutty Putty Cave have been suspended and that the cave will be sealed from all access. Details are sketchy, but I personally can't believe that they are going to permanently leave him down there. I recommended in two interviews today with KSL-TV5 and the Salt Lake Tribune that only the area that causes all the rescues needs to be sealed and the rest left open. If the cave is made John Jones's grave, like it now sounds, I think that would be totally irresponsible, IMHO. Stay tuned for further information. Read the latest at:
http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=8820090


I think it's deplorable that they will seal the cave with Jones inside. This AP article says he died in an unmapped passage. Is that true or was it in "Bob's Push" as previously reported? http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ut_cave_rescue_death
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Nov 27, 2009 8:09 pm

ArCaver wrote:This AP article says he died in an unmapped passage. Is that true or was it in "Bob's Push" as previously reported?


Both are true. John is in an unmapped portion of Bob's Push. I can see why the surveyors elected not to map it.

At this time I will withhold detailed criticism of the decision to seal the cave with John in it, but will say that I do not agree with it for several reasons. This is the decision of the family and the landowner, so we will have to respect it for now....
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby VACaver » Nov 27, 2009 8:13 pm

I read on another website that there have been a couple of other rescues from the same passage John was in. True?
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Nov 27, 2009 8:18 pm

VACaver wrote:I read on another website that there have been a couple of other rescues from the same passage John was in. True?


As far as I know, there has been one other rescue in Bob's Push. It was in 2004 or 2005. There was another rescue that month, but in a different part of the cave.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby karst97 » Nov 27, 2009 8:23 pm

Interesting Andy, they stated that "it was a unanimous decision of everyone involved" that they seal the cave...
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby shibumi » Nov 27, 2009 8:42 pm

Andy, thanks for the information and your efforts. Crack and crevice situations are something I find to
be underestimated in difficulty and perception of risk. Rescue training often focuses on technical rigging
and litter evacuation. As you know I don't like to second guess folks on the ground, but in my experience
you folks were facing one of the most difficult rescue challenges for a number of reasons.

If you and/or Bonny need an ear to bounce stuff off of to decompress, I'll be home Sunday evening and can be on phone
if you want.

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

Postby Scott McCrea » Nov 27, 2009 9:53 pm

Such a disappointing decision to add to an already tragic event. The families wishes are paramount but it doesn't seem like much of a resting place. My fear is that the sealed cave will become some sort of legendary, spooky, mythical attractive nuisance which eventually will be breached.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby jonbroholm » Nov 27, 2009 10:51 pm

I'm completely surprised and dismayed at the decision to discontinue recovery efforts and close Nutty Putty Cave permanently. I don't know the cave and the logistics of recovery, but I feel that leaving John's body in the cave is something that should be avoided at (nearly) all costs. This sets the completely wrong precedent for future rescue/recovery situations. Fatalities occur while hiking, climbing, skiing, (insert your favorite outdoor sport) but there's never any thought of closing areas where those happen. It sounds like some local cavers have advocated closure of only the area where he died. Is there any possibility that this can be reconsidered?
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby ColdCaustic » Nov 28, 2009 10:58 am

Sorry to hear about John. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

Cheers to all the rescuers, that had to be some tough work.

The decision to close the cave may be a little knee jerk, in time this decision will probably be rethought and i hope they'll recover the body and leave the cave open.

Can someone do a quick mspaint drawing of this passage?, having a tough time visualizing this in 3d.

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

Postby Scott McCrea » Nov 28, 2009 6:40 pm

A while back, I posed a question here asking what the worse case scenario cave rescue would be. This one seems to fit the category.

I still think John should be recovered and properly laid to rest. It makes me sad, even hurt, that they may not even try again to get him out.
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby VACaver » Nov 28, 2009 8:33 pm

I'm with you, Scott. Bugs me a bit to know that John's still there...
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Re: Another rescue in progress at Utah's Nutty Putty Cave

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Nov 28, 2009 10:31 pm

Initially my knee-jerk reaction to the closure is the same. Just because someone has died in the cave shouldn't be reason to close it as thousands have visited this cave (literally) over the years without incident. Logan Cave had experienced a fatality and was kept open... what closed it (ironically) was not human deaths but bat deaths as hundreds of threatened species bats were slaughtered and prompted the land owner (USFS) to gate and close the cave.
However: information that I have received helps in my understanding of the decision of the land-owners (The State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) and the fact that there have been an increasing number of rescues in the past decade than at any other time since the cave was originally discovered. These rescues grew in frequency over the past few years... (a study I feel needs to be conducted as to the reasons WHY this is so), the cave had at one time experienced an average annual visitation rate of over 9000, and with that amount of people going in and out and a largely inexperienced crowd of cave explorers (spelunkers) the odds are very high indeed for accidents to happen.
Soon the number of rescues at this cave were at such a rate (with several prank call outs by non-caving morons who thought it would be funny), and I was on two rescues within a couple months of each other a few years ago before moving to TAG, got the Sheriff's SAR dept to the point of frustration, not to mention the land owners increasing fears due to liability concerns... they opted at first to close the cave.
Cavers rushed in to argue that a better management plan and a gate would help reduce the incidents and for a while it did. Visitors to the cave were required to meet minimum standards of gear, experience or at least an adequate guide (with proper gear). This individual met all the requirements.
With that he was exposed to the same risks and dangers that any caver will experience in any cave. I've taken the same risks in this particular cave (not exactly same location... but the cave is full of tight, twisty, slanted passages throughout) and managed to come out unscathed, dozens of others did likewise, this particular young man took the same risks and they caught up with him.
That 27 hours of continuous effort by (NCRC trained) cavers who were given free reign to conduct the actual rescue with the Sheriff's dept lending logistical and equipment support were not enough to save this man's life is tragic. Word that I received is that all the rescuers that were directly involved and had been in contact with the victim/deceased are hit hard by this tragedy. In spite of their heroic efforts they still feel they didn't do enough to save this man. Word I have is that they did everything humanly possible and then some. They should all be commended and held blameless and given moral support as they struggle with their grief.

As I've learned over the years land-owners have always had the last say-so in closing a cave or keeping it open. They assume the liability risks not the people who explore the caves who ARE the liability risks either way we slice it. The family can argue to attempt to recover the body but it would either mean extreme modification of the cave itself, possibly drilling down on the surface to reach the body (akin to Floyd Collins). The Sheriffs dept has assessed the possibility of body recovery and deemed it too dangerous for rescuers to do so. Rightly so... considering the passage the body is in. It was hard enough on the rescuers attempting to rescue the living man.
Given the history of the amount of rescues, the logistical expenditures of each accumulated over time and the increasing risk of a major lawsuit against the land-owners with each consecutive rescue... their decision is probably the best one that could be made.

My main concern is going to be this. Utah is replete with caves and eventually folks will gravitate to another location even if it means driving another 50 miles or so to reach it. Another cave with high risk factors because of the fact that it's in a mine comes to mind, may start seeing an increase, or even one closer than that. People are going to explore caves with or without grottos, with or without proper training and eventually another incident will prompt the same old fears. Utah mines are being closed at a prodigious rate... one fears that the caves of Utah will begin getting the same treatment.
Without the possibility of death, adventure is not possible. ~ Reinhold Messner


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

Postby elfish » Nov 28, 2009 10:58 pm

This is similar a situation that happened here Colorado in the early 1980's. A well liked and accomplished caver, Bruce Unger, was killed while trying to make a through trip in a stream cave in the Lost Creek Wilderness. After the death, the cavers tried to remove the body, but it was wedged tight in a crack in the stream, so they decided to leave it in the cave. The caving community supported this idea and some of the family supported it too, however as time went on, the decision became more difficult to maintain. Some family members felt unresolved having the body left in the cave. At the same time, when the Water Board found out it was in the stream, they demanded it be removed.

Part of the difficulty was that getting the body out would require applying a lot of force to the body. The cave rescuers were friends of the victim and were not emotionally equipped to handle the body roughly to get it out. The solution was using a caver who was an MD Doctor to supervise the extraction. Doctors are used to handling bodies and are not as squeamish as ordinary people The body was successfully removed by winching it out with rope.

Having witnessed some of the events, I think it is a bad idea to leave a body in a cave for several reasons:

1. Leaving the body doesn't allow the family closure. In the case of the Colorado death, at least one family member said she'd never be resolved until the body was removed. Dealing with a unexpected death is hard enough, but having the body in a wild cave, marginally protected from vandals and vermin makes it even more difficult to resolve the loss.

2. Closing a cave is difficult even when there is no body. People always want to get into closed caves. Most gated caves get breached from time to time. As time passes and the tragedy is forgotten, there will be more and attempts to break in. Unless you fill the whole cave to the ceiling with concrete, it will eventually succeed.

3. Having a body in the cave will make it even more attractive to thrill seekers. If I remember right, Floyd Collin's body was kept in Crystal Cave for years and the body was frequently stolen and vandalized. Helen Hunt Jackson used be buried in the foothills outside Colorado Springs, but they eventually moved her to a cemetery because her body was periodically stolen. Similar problems have occurred with Buffalo Bill Cody and President Lincoln.

4. I think it sets a bad precedent. Most caves are dangerous enough that it is not uncommon for people to die in them. If you start leaving bodies and closing caves, we will have many closed caves serving as mausoleums for deceased cavers.

Some people are making a comparison to the Utah mine where miners had been killed and they chose to leave the bodies because of the danger to rescuers. However, mines are inheritly unstable and dangerous whereas caves are not. Considering that this cave has been visited by thousands of people, there is nothing to suggest it is inheritly dangerous. It does appear that one or two passages are dangerous, but you could solve that problem by blocking or widening those specific passages. It should be fairly easy to widen the passage using modern mining techniques. At the same time widening the passage would allow easy and safe body removal.

Wanting to close the cave and leave the body, is understandable as a tribute to the person, but it is just asking for long-term problems.
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