On Saturday afternoon, July 30, Jeffrey Allen Gerhart (22) and three companions entered My Cave in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. They were lighty clothed, wearing jeans, shirts, and tennis shoes, and had only two flashlights. They passed the small entrance and proceeded a few hundred feet to the top of a descent sloping from 45 to 60 degrees. Gerhart started down, slipped on the slick mud and fell 40 feet to the bottom. Unfortunately he fell such that he hit the slot opening to an 86 foot drop and plummeted down that as well.
The group had no climbing equipment or ropes and Gerhart's companions could only go for help. They called the State Police and help soon arrived. A State Trooper, J.M. Kykendall, lowered himself on a rope down the mud slope and determined that Gerhart had indeed gone over the deeper drop. The Riverton and Valley Head Rescue Squads, a Civil Defense unit and several science camp counselors were summoned and arrived at the cave at about 7:30 p.m. The victim was found dead. The body evacuation was not completed until 9:30 Sunday morning.
NSS News, May 1981 (Part 2) V39N5, Page A28-A29.
Anon. "Caver Killed" The Pocahontas Times August 4, 1977 p 1.
Anon. "Fall in Cave Kills Philadelphia Man" The Cumberland Times/News August 1, 1977.
R.D. Barlow "My Cave Report of Death: Jeffery Allen Gerhart, 30 July 1977" Report of the Virginia Region Safety and Techniques Committee.
News article reprints The Potomac Caver 20:8 August 1977 p 103.
The cavers were "just looking around" and were obviously poorly equipped. Flashlights don't allow the full use of the hands in climbing and tennis shoes can hardly be called adequate footwear. The cave temperature of 47 degrees presented a hypothermia hazard to the rescuers and it is speculated that the lightly clothed Gerhart would have succumbed to hypothermia if he had survived the fall.