On Sunday, July 19, cavers were exploring a new cave in Virginia, consisting of a series of offset vertical drops. The first drop (entrance pit) is 70 feet to an offset, then a 47 foot drop takes one to a ledge. The sequence of events is not exactly clear, but at about 6 p.m. Greg McCoy (31) was standing on the edge when a caver below him did something on rope that caused the rope (which reached to the surface) to move out of a notch just below the offset. There was reportedly some mud and rocks on the slopes, and a five pound rock was dislodged.
The rock fell some 40 feet, struck Mcoy on his Petzl Ecrin helmet, then deflected, striking his shoulder. McCoy was incapacitated with a "shoulder trauma" and "bruised, compressed cervical spine."
Companions went for help and CAVES Region and Triangle Rescue group responded. An EMT descended and evaluated the victim, calling for a hauling system. McCoy was hauled out on a 3:1 "Z" system (two directionals) and transported by private vehicle. He is reportedly caving again with no complications.
NSS News, December 1988 (Part 2) V46N12, Page 484.
Anthony McGee NSS Accident Report, undated, 2 pages.
The rope, going past offsets, was padded but one must recognize that it may touch surfaces with loose rock that the rappeller is unable to clear on the way down -- it may be better to re-anchor the rope at offsets.
The rock struck McCoy's helmet off-center by about two inches, leaving a dent.