On July 9, 1977, George Dasher (25), Liz Hall and Chris Welch entered Organ Cave in West Virginia via the Lipps Entrance. Their aim was to map a newly discovered aread, the Belfry. They are experienced cavers but it was Welsh's first trip into Organ Cave.
Going in they rigged a short climb with webbing attached to a boulder of about 500 pounds lying flat on a flat floor. On another pitch a handline and 3-rung direct-aid etrier was rigged to a 2x4 wedged into a narrow, overhead slot. Dasher was unable to negotiate a tight place beyond this and so remained behind while the others surveyed on. He had passed his pack through the constriction and it was not passed back when he turned around so he arrived at the drop without it. Dasher went down both handlines to refill his carbide lamp with water. He sat down to wait.
After a while he heard a rock fall and went up the boulder-anchored line to investigate. Nothing seemed to be ocurring so he went down again and went to sleep.
Upon awakening he found his lamp growing dim so he ascended to the constriction to call to the others to hurry up. On the way up he noticed that the boulder sling appeared to have slipped. As he descended that drop it appeared to slip again. Actually, the mud-covered rock was not whole and part was rocking. As he leaned back and put weight on the handline, this part pulled over the edge. Dasher and the rock fell to the bottom.
A breakdown block at the bottom caught Dasher's right foot and the falling rock at the same time, smashing his foot and twisting his leg as his body continued. His helmet flew off as he fell the remaining short distance to the floor.
Dasher was in great pain but soon determined that he was still functional. He yelled to the others who were on their way, having heard the rock fall. In a few minutes they reached the top of another drop which, already rigged, led to Dasher from the area being surveyed. They went back for their packs and in 45 minutes were at the victim's side.
Carbide lamps had to be recharged and lit with matches by the light of cylumes, their strikers being too muddy to operate. The group then exited the cave with Dasher using the 2x4 as a crutch but still having to crawl in some of the walking passge. He was later found to have no broken bones.
NSS News, May 1981 (Part 2) V39N5, Page A28-29.
George Dasher "Further Adventures in Jones Canyon" D.C. Speleograph August 1977 p 13-16.
George Dasher Personal Communication February 26, 1980.
When anchoring a line one should, by kicking, pounding, pulling, or pushing, do one's best to establish that the point of anchoring is stable and strong. If rappelling, one should then get on rappel and try to exert as much force as possible on the anchor before going over the edge and actually starting the rappel.
The victim was apparently lucky that the rock did not strike him more fully.
Dasher should not have gotten himself separated from his cave pack. He was using a flashlight at the moment of the accident since his charge of carbide had been expended. More light might have shown him what was occurring with the anchor.