Cave Rescue, May 31, 1992
Con Cave, PA


REPORT

At about 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 31, a group of two, Chris Guarlotti and Jeanette Coughenour (14) entered Con Cave, an 800 foot-long cave among a group of caves called the Bear Caves, in Derry Township, Pennsylvania. Guarlotti had a helmet-mounted light but Coughenour had only a flashlight.

About 350 feet from the entrance, they were in an upper level crawlway when she tried to back feet first out of a crawl and climb down a vertical pitch into the Rotunda Room. This is normally considered a roped drop. She fell, striking a ledge about 21 feet down, and then fell another eight feet. Guarlotti apparently was able to climb down and found his companion to be incapacitated from an injured right ankle, but otherwise all right. Guarlotti went for help and then returned to wait with the victim.

Firemen, National Cave Rescue Commission, and Westmoreland County Tactical Rope Rescue Team were called. Rescuerers arrived and the victim was put into a harness, so she could be hauled up vertical pitches and strapped into a SKED. She had been wearing a sweatshirt and had gotten a little cold, so a space blanket was wrapped around her. She was hauled vertically to the top of some breakdown blocks and then transported horizontally to the entrance. There were enough rescuers that they could form a human roadway, passing the SKED along their backs from one to another. There are short pitches in a very narrow passage near the entrance where the victim had to be turned sideways to make it through. The evacuation was complete by 8:15 p.m. The victim was found to have suffered mild hypothermia and fractured pelvic and ankle bones.


References

NSS News, December 1993 (Part 2) V51N12, Page 359.

Kim Opatka "Girl Breaks Ankle in Cave" The Latrobe Bulletin 90:138 June 1, 1992, p 1, 3.

Martin Kinnunen "Trapped teen fought pain, terror, cold" Tribune-Review June 2, 1992, pp A!, A5.


Analysis

A mock rescue in these cave a few weeks before was given credit in greatly aiding the real thing.