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Spelunker dies in Utah cave

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Spelunker dies in Utah cave

Postby Alpinist » Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:25 pm

R.I.P.

A man stuck upside-down in a cave for more than a day died early Thursday, despite the efforts of dozens of rescuers, authorities said.

John Jones, 26, of Stansbury Park died about 12:30 a.m., nearly 28 hours after he became stuck 700 feet into the cave known as Nutty Putty, Utah County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.


Full story.
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Postby Tim Stich » Thu Nov 26, 2009 4:40 pm

I read the story this morning as well. Very sorry to hear that. The first time I had read such a report, it concerned a man named Neil Moss who had gotten stuck in Peak Cavern in the UK many years ago. Similarly, many people tried to extract him from a crevice in which he had crawled into and gotten stuck. At one point, a rope put around Neil broke while they attempted to haul him up.

I'm not sure if any of you have done any caving, but it seems if you do it long enough you will end up stuck in some crawling passage or fissure for a period of time. Most often, you just reverse how you got into it. But if you are even going slightly downhill, it becomes very difficult to crawl in reverse. In addition, your clothing tends to snag too much on the rock walls. I found that out in an Arkansas cave once and was stuck in a coffin-sized room for at least 30 frantic minutes. It's not fun to say the least.

Here's to you, John.
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Postby Matthew Van Horn » Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:55 pm

Very sad. At first there was a lot of confidence he would be saved.
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Postby kiwiw » Sat Nov 28, 2009 4:14 am

they are leaving his body and closing off the cave completely.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091128/ap_ ... RyYXBwZQ--
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Postby JDrake » Sat Nov 28, 2009 8:02 pm

His funeral was this morning. The family invited all involved search and rescue (100+) to a family dinner following the services in order to personally express their gratitude. A lot of the initial reports have been conflicting, but apparently he was unknowingly exploring an unmapped section. Leaves behind a pregnant wife and 13 month old girl.

Very sad.
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Postby seanpeckham » Tue Dec 01, 2009 2:59 am

It's even more sad that the cave is going to be permanently sealed.

Even if removing the body really is infeasible, why not just seal off that particular passage, instead of the whole cave? This is such an irrational knee-jerk reaction on the face of it (though beneath the face of it is the fact that the drive to close this cave began years ago for political reasons, and is only opportunistically exploiting this death).

I hope I'm preaching to the choir here on summitpost by saying if we banned every activity and destroyed any formation of nature (regardless of the eons it took to form) that could ever kill at least a tiny fraction of 1% of the people who engage in it, then we'd all be just as dead as this guy, only with nothing to show for it.

From the article linked above:
"We feel like it would be John's will to protect the safety of future cavers," his younger brother, Josh, said at a news conference Friday.

Tell me I'm not the only one who finds this a rather patronizing and hypocritical attitude to have towards the thousands of people who have explored that cave not only safely, but also without jeopardizing the future privilege of others to do so as well.
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Postby lcarreau » Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:23 am

I'm not a caver, but I think there's a liability issue involved, being the cave was located on
private land.

Actually, I'm surprised that "the whole world" hasn't been closed yet, so a small handful of
people can start from the beginning and presumably do things the "right" way.

Condolences to the man and his family.
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Postby Bob Sihler » Tue Dec 01, 2009 4:31 am

seanpeckham wrote:It's even more sad that the cave is going to be permanently sealed.

Even if removing the body really is infeasible, why not just seal off that particular passage, instead of the whole cave? This is such an irrational knee-jerk reaction on the face of it (though beneath the face of it is the fact that the drive to close this cave began years ago for political reasons, and is only opportunistically exploiting this death).

I hope I'm preaching to the choir here on summitpost by saying if we banned every activity and destroyed any formation of nature (regardless of the eons it took to form) that could ever kill at least a tiny fraction of 1% of the people who engage in it, then we'd all be just as dead as this guy, only with nothing to show for it.

From the article linked above:
"We feel like it would be John's will to protect the safety of future cavers," his younger brother, Josh, said at a news conference Friday.

Tell me I'm not the only one who finds this a rather patronizing and hypocritical attitude to have towards the thousands of people who have explored that cave not only safely, but also without jeopardizing the future privilege of others to do so as well.


Agreed.

People drown in the ocean each year. Let's close all the beaches forever!
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Postby Ammon Hatch » Tue Dec 01, 2009 5:57 am

I also agree. Everyone on this site engages in risky behavior. And I know if the worst happens to me, I wouldn't want a crag, trail, wilderness area, etc. closed on my behalf to protect those who may be as unlucky/unprepared/foolish as I was.

It's sad that he passed and I feel for his family. But he took a risk, and paid for it. The rest of us should have the same chance.

edit: For the record, I visited the caves about 10 years ago. We had a good time and all made it out safe. One death is sad, but doesn't come close to changing the statistics. The cave is safe if you're smart.
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Postby JDrake » Tue Dec 01, 2009 5:52 pm

seanpeckham wrote:It's even more sad that the cave is going to be permanently sealed.

From the article linked above:
"We feel like it would be John's will to protect the safety of future cavers," his younger brother, Josh, said at a news conference Friday.

Tell me I'm not the only one who finds this a rather patronizing and hypocritical attitude to have towards the thousands of people who have explored that cave not only safely, but also without jeopardizing the future privilege of others to do so as well.


I agree with the overall sentiment, but I respectfully think it's unfair to judge his brother's (and family's) comments in light of the intense feelings of grief, frustration, and loss he is going through. Clarity of mind, and the ability to see the big picture generally aren't companions to a mind struggling with loss. I know when my brother passed that rational thinking wasn't foremost in my mind. In time, I imagine the family would vote to seal off only the passage where their son is (maybe they wanted this from the start and were pressured to go along with the county's plan).

It was said that the cave is "safe if you're smart." To me, that might read that John died because he was dumb. Perhaps I've misjudged what Ammon meant, but I think John died because he got caught up in the excitment of what he was doing, that excitement drowned out the voice of wisdom, and he found himself in a situation he couldn't handle. I've done it, I'm pretty sure you all have done it, and I'm also pretty sure you all are smart, capable explorers. Maybe we could say that the caves (and the outdoors in general) are safer if we can manage to temper our thrill seeking with wisdom.

This is a pretty good link:
http://jonjasper.com/Presentations/Savi ... PuttyCave/
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Postby seanpeckham » Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:16 pm

JDrake wrote:I agree with the overall sentiment, but I respectfully think it's unfair to judge his brother's (and family's) comments in light of the intense feelings of grief, frustration, and loss he is going through.

I agree that it's undesirable to add harsh judgments to their grief, and almost didn't submit my post, but their grief is being exploited not just by others but by themselves to ram through the agenda to close the cave. If the family is going to get involved in the politics, that is their choice just as much as it was John's choice to go into that tight passageway. I am tired of reading comments on the news articles saying close the cave, dynamite it, fill it with cement, etc., and then in response to any disagreement they play the grief card and make cavers out to be the selfish, insensitive ones even though cavers are not the ones who want to turn a wonder of nature into a private tomb. People who want to save the cave should not have to play that bullshit game.

Yes, it puts a lot of this in perspective. The sad thing is they hoped that requiring helmets and experience would eliminate accidents, because they knew as soon as someone died the cave would stand a good chance of being closed. But caution is more effective than gear and experience in that cave. How do you regulate that? Despite that the cave is pretty safe for the vast majority of people who are capable of making it past the entrance, even without experience or even helmets*, if it has to be promised that no more people will die in it before it's reopened, then it's doomed. Society needs to accept at least a tiny fraction of the risk related to outdoor adventure that it so easily accepts related to traffic, industry, war, etc.

[edited to add]:
*I'm not recommending no helmets, but I've been through that cave (well, the right half - I didn't know about the Maze side back then) safely 3 or 4 times, all before I owned a helmet - this was in the 90s before any regulations existed.
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Postby JDrake » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:30 pm

seanpeckham wrote:Society needs to accept at least a tiny fraction of the risk related to outdoor adventure that it so easily accepts related to traffic, industry, war, etc.


Amen, and excellent point.
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Postby Ammon Hatch » Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:41 pm

JDrake wrote:It was said that the cave is "safe if you're smart." To me, that might read that John died because he was dumb. Perhaps I've misjudged what Ammon meant, but I think John died because he got caught up in the excitment of what he was doing, that excitement drowned out the voice of wisdom, and he found himself in a situation he couldn't handle. I've done it, I'm pretty sure you all have done it, and I'm also pretty sure you all are smart, capable explorers. Maybe we could say that the caves (and the outdoors in general) are safer if we can manage to temper our thrill seeking with wisdom.


I think we're on the same page. I wasn't using "smart" as a term indicating intelligence, but wisdom. I'm generally a smart person, but in the past I've made some really stupid calls (because I was caught up in the excitement of a moment), found myself in a situation I could not escape, and my worst injuries have been a result. I take responsibility for those actions and the resulting injury. And I learned from them, and am now "smarter". I don't know John from Adam, but I suspect he would feel the same about his choice to enter that part of the cave.
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Postby Scott Wesemann » Thu Dec 03, 2009 3:15 pm

About 15 years ago I explored the cave with a few friends, and when we got to some sections that required us to squeeze through tight small openings I had enough and bailed with another friend. We got lost for well over an hour in there trying to find our way out and that pretty much ended my spelunking career. It sucked.

I am not a fan of closing the cave at all. This was a tragic story, and I think the regulating authorities need to take some time and get input from several different parties before they make any decisions. I hate seeing regulations based on emotion because of one incident.
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Postby Day Hiker » Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:57 pm

That is some creepy shit. Just reading the description invokes strong feelings of claustrophobia.

I've been through some pretty tight slot canyons, and that is my limit. I don't mind the tourist caves that can be walked through, but there is no way could you pay me enough to do one of those asinine crawl-through caves.

It baffles me that they couldn't just tie a cable or big-ass rope around his ankles and pull him out. And it's even more surprising that they couldn't manage this with the dead body. Just connect the ankles to a cable to a big winch, and start pulling. Something is going to happen.

Closing the cave and leaving a dead body seems really odd.
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