Cave Rescue, February 6, 1993
J-4 Cave, PA


On Saturday, February 6, a group of spelunkers visited J-4 Cave in Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania. The cave has 4,350 feet of mapped passage and more unmapped. The entrance is 30 feet up on the 150-foot face of a quarry. The group was obviously inexperienced, being largely without helmets, proper caving lights (one flashlight each), suits, or other equipment. They proceeded through the series of tight, downward slots and tubes to a walking-height passage. This led about a hundred feet to a climb up over breakdown. At this point there is also a crawl to the left, under the breakdown, that leads 30 or 40 feet to more walking passage, about 300 feet from the entrance.

They proceeded some distance further and, a little after noon, were exiting when they again reached this point. One of the group, Chris Miller (21) was on his first caving trip. He was climbing up this walking passage when he fell 10 to 15 feet, landing on his back. He suffered immediate pain and reportedly felt numbness in his legs. His companions apparently helped him through the crawls to the first walking passage. At this point they encountered a group of nine cavers from the Tri-State Grotto, NSS. These cavers could see that Miller was in need of evacuation so one left the cave and, at about 12:30 p.m., phoned for help. Miller was moved to the start of breakdown and wrapped in winter jackets, fetched from the entrance room, and plastic bags.

The Eastern Region, National Cave Rescue Commission received the initial call and they spread the word, involving the Pleasant Gap Fire Company and the Nittany Grotto Cave Rescue Team. EMT's entered the cave at 1:00 p.m. and attended to the victim, applying heat packs, blankets, cervical collar and a spinal backboard. It was found that Miller had broken a wrist and it was suspected that he had spinal injuries. A SKED was sent for and arrived at about 2:15 p.m. The victim was packaged and moved to the narrow entrance series where it was known from previous rescues that he would have to go through without the SKED. This took about an hour and Miller arrived at the entrance at about 4:00 p.m. Maneuvering through the two three-foot-diameter (four-and-eight-foot long) entrance gate pipes was tricky. Miller was placed in a Stokes and lowered down the quarry face and carried the half of a mile to an ambulance. The victim was found to have suffered a broken wrist and fractured vertebra (L-2).


NSS News, December 1994 (Part 2) V52N12, Page 384.

Mark Jancin "Rescue at J-4" Nittany Grotto News 40:2 Apr 1993, p 5-6.

Mark Jancin "Report of Rescue at J-4 Cave" unpublished report Feb 12, 1993. 8 pp.

Bob Bennett "Cave Rescue" Dead Dog Dispatch 8:2 Feb 1993.


The rescue went very well; for critical details one might contact Mark Jancin or otherwise get a copy of his report. The victim should not have moved or allowed to move after the accident, until strapped to a spinal backboard.