On Saturday evening, July 3, a group of six cavers entered Marshalls Cave in Highland County, Virginia. They were not familiar with the cave, but had been told that it wasn't difficult to explore. Finding the main passage to the back of the cave required exploring a number of leads. The correct route involved a 25-foot pit which was rigged with a hand line. Two of the group returned to the entrance at this point.
A canyon passage continued, floored with water and deep mud. They traversed this by climbing along the wall, about three feet up. Some of the group had completed this and had gone up a short climb into a passage leading to the Big Room. Jason Kyler (21) was coming last along the traverse when a loud "pop" was heard and Kyler said, "Oh shit!" His left foot had slipped off a hold and caught again, twisting and injuring the ankle.
His nearest companion was Garrett Czmor, 20 feet away, who asked Kyler if he was alright. Kyler replied that it really hurt and he felt faint. Czmor struggled back through the mud, yelling that Kyler should put his feet in the water and lean back against the wall, so he wouldn't collapse in the water. Kyler didn't faint. He soon recovered his senses and the others were called back. They examined the leg, and suspected a tendon torn just above the ankle. One person was sent out of the cave, found the two who had already exited and made a call to the NCRC. They also went to nearby Butler Cave to get help from cavers there.
The cavers with the victim waited an hour and then decided to get Kyler out of the wet passage. They were able to help him along, with one in front and one behind, and were soon back at the pit. After waiting another hour, Kyler was becoming cold so they helped him up the pit and soon made it out to the entrance.
A rescuer with a rope and a large first aid kit arrived and a splint was fashioned and fixed in place with duct tape. The victim was then belayed by one caver while the other two descended just in front of Kyler down the 200 foot talus slope outside the entrance. A rain had made the rocks very slick and they did a lot of sliding on their back sides. A road was some distance away and they first tried letting the victim hobble along with the aid of a crutch made from a tree limb. This proved too painful so cavers made a drag litter and proceeded some distance before becoming exhausted. The victim insisted on continuing by crawling before additional help arrived and the carry was completed. It was dawn when the rescuers got back to their camp. X-rays showed no broken bones.
NSS News, December 1994 (Part 2) V52N12, Page 392.
Garrett Czmor "Accident Report on Marshalls Cave" unpublished report 2 pp.
Garrett Czmor "1993 Summer Grotto Trip to Virginia" The Cave Hunter (Huntingdon County Cave Hunters Grotto, NSS) 9:2 Aug 1993.
This is one of the more common injuries in caving and the group certainly did a good job of self rescue when it became apparent that it should be done. Czmor points out that self rescue is something that should be carefully considered: Do you have the resources and ability to carry it off? Will the condition of the victim allow it?