View Full Version : Five rescued after two days lost in cave

05-01-2007, 09:46 AM

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Lost for two days in a seven-mile-long cave in West Virginia, five friends were bruised, shivering and had run out of food and water. Three prayed for help, then heard a faint voice.

"I collapsed and started crying," said Heidi McWilliams, 20. "I thought we were hearing things."

McWilliams and her fellow explorers in the 718-foot-deep Mingo-Simmons cave, 130 miles east of Charleston, were treated for minor injuries and returned Tuesday to their homes in central Pennsylvania, a day after their rescue.

Authorities got their first call after the owner of the property on which one of the cave entrances sits noticed the group's car still parked outside late Saturday.

Members of the National Cave Rescue Commission arrived from West Virginia and four other states, and state police, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army were also on the scene. Rescuers used radios to stay in contact.

Finally, after several failed attempts, the five were found about 11:30 a.m. Monday. (Watch scene outside cave after rescue )

McWilliams and Dan Sampson, 25, recounted their ordeal Tuesday.

Things were going smoothly until 10 hours into the trip, when they took a wrong turn. They had stumbled into a large room in which most of the routes in and out led back to the same place.

"We were in a maze," Sampson said.

Lt. Kelly Bostian of Shavers Fork Fire Rescue and two other rescuers made their first foray in about 11:15 p.m. Saturday, but turned back after several hours, fearing they'd get lost themselves.

"Evidently, we were only yards from the victims when we had to turn back," Bostian said.

By 1 a.m. Sunday, 12 hours into their journey, the explorers realized they were out of food. At times over the next 36 hours, two at a time would venture to find an exit and try to stay in contact with the others by yelling.

The rest tried to take turns resting, using their backpacks to shield them from the cold floor. For water, they would find puddles in rock crevices or lick droplets from the ceiling.

The temperature hovered around 50 degrees. McWilliams wore a cotton T-shirt, pants that helped wick away moisture and overalls. The group was in an area where they could stand and move around, and their lights still worked.

Two of the more experienced spelunkers -- Jason Ross, 30, and Skye Fisher, 20 -- got lost after trying again at the 32-hour mark to find an exit. They returned eight hours later.

"For us, that was depressing, and we lost a little bit of hope," Sampson said.

Finally, more than 48 hours after they entered the cave, help came.

It took about four hours before all were out of the cave. Keri Krall, 21, needed help out by rescuers because she had bruised ribs and a knee injury, her friends said.

Emergency workers showered the explorers with clothing, water, sports drinks and granola bars.

"I felt so grateful," Heidi McWilliams said. "Seeing everyone there, it was so awesome to see. They handled it so well."

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