Crews from Blacksburg were called in to assist in Sunday’s rescue at Cyclops Cave in Russell County. Rescue teams say it took several hours to pull the men to safety.
“We were really happy to get them all out of there. When you’re doing an operation, you have to put your emotions to the side. People are always asking ‘how did you feel about this?’ And the emotional side.You need to leave that at the entrance of the cave,” says cave supervisor Wil Orndorff. “When you’re in there, it has to be technical and it has to be calculated,” Orndorff says.
23 cavers from the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad’s cave rescue team assisted in the operation, along with other agencies.
“The biggest thing was just having everyone be able to work together to make this happen,” says technical rescuer Naomi Orndorff.
Technical rescuer Dan Crowder filled many roles during the operation, including being a patient advocate. It was his job to make sure his assigned man got out safely.
“When a doctor looks you in the eye and says it’s your job, you must get this person out. That’s a lot of weight,” says Crowder.
The rescue presented many challenges-the number of patients to be rescued and the tight space made it difficult to navigate the cave.
“It was annoying, because I couldn’t be with my patient the entire time. When the doctor says you have to go with this patient, get them out of the cave at any cost to yourself, it’s hard when you see your patient go up a drop and you can’t follow them,” says Crowder.
But he was still able to provide encouragement along the way.
“This person was done and they couldn’t be done. It wasn’t allowed. We had to make sure they knew that wasn’t allowed,” says Crowder. “You’re not allowed. You can only be done when you see the daylight. And ultimately, that’s what we got him with. He wanted to see the daylight.”
All five men were rescued and able to see the daylight. But even with the success of the rescue, the team of technical rescuers were already talking about how to get the job done better the next time around.
The five men were in relatively good condition following the rescue. They showed symptoms of hyopthermia and exhaustion, but were otherwise okay.
Prior to the rescue, a sixth male, Andrew Webb, was able to pull himself out of the cave and call 911 for assistance in rescuing the others in the group. Both Webb and the rescuers urge those wanting to explore caves to take classes and have the proper training and equipment before doing so.