On March 19, 1983, three cavers were exploring in a West Virginia cave. After some ten hours of caving they started out. About half-way out, still below the 6th climb to the entrance, they stopped to recarbide. As Kent Seavers (30) opened his pack there was a tremendous explosion. The acetylene fireball burned Seavers' face, singeing his eyebrows and causing loss of vision in both eyes.
It was decided to self-rescue, both because of hypothermiating conditions and the apparent urgent need of professional care for the victim's eyes. Between the group and the entrance were several tricky climbs and a section of breakdown involving tight squeezes.
The victim climbed blind, on belay, using instructions from a companion. The breakdown squeezes were done with the victim keeping one hand on a companion's foot, for guidance. The trip out was without further incident. After a couple of weeks his eyesight was back to normal.
Tommy Shifflett "Gave Accident" Groundhog (Shenandoah Valley Grotto) unnumbered undated (approx Aug, 1983).
Tommy Shiffieti Personal Communication Dec 9, 1983.
Kent Seavers Personal Communication Dec 6, 1983.
The cavers felt that the ballistic nylon pack was gas-tight, resulting in a rush of acetylene when opened, Neither the pack nor its contents were damaged, Indicating that the gas in the pack did not explode. Their recommendation is that a pack have ventilation-that is, not be made water tight and thus air-tight-to lessen the degree of danger from gas build-up.