Cave Rescue, September 8, 1987
Unnamed Pit, WV


Shortly after 6 p.m. on September 8, Bill Liebman and Barry Baumgardner were checking a 60 foot pit near Laneville, West Virginia. (Tucker County)

A tree at the edge of the sink was used for a rig point. The rope passed down a ten foot slope and on down the relatively free drop of the thirteen foot diameter pit. They had gotten wet from a rainstorm on the hike to the pit. Both rappelled in but no leads were found so they prepared to exit. They were getting chilled by this time.

Liebman started up after flipping the rope to a new position. When he got about ten feet up, he heard the sound of rocks falling. "Without looking up, I instinctively leaned toward the wall and raised my left arm up over my head." This shifted his body to the left. He was struck on the right shoulder by a two to three hundred pound rock, which continued on to shatter on the floor.

It was several minutes before Liebman could answer his companion's inquiries. He was soon able to back down the rope, operating his Jumars with one hand. Baumgardner exited to see if the landowner had a horse that could be used to hoist the victim. On the surface, Baumgardner got a space blanket and waterproof jacket and lowered them to Liebman.

There was a horse available, but when the horse tried to pull, the rope cut into the ground and friction became too great. A call was made to the local fire department rescue squad; cavers were called also, but put on standby.

The rescue squad soon arrived; Liebman was hauled up by direct pull, guiding himself around ledges. He was out by 7:30 p.m. He had suffered a severely broken shoulder.


NSS News, December 1988 (Part 2) V46N12, Page 486.

George Dasher "The Rocking Chair" The West Virginia Caver 5(5) October 1987, p 11.

Barry Baumgardner Personal Communications (Hot Tub) June 30, 1988.

Bill Liebman "Accident in a West Virginia Cave" The Explorer December 1987, p 156-157.


One must advise against doing anything with the position of the rope after one has rappelled. The rappel enables you to clear or clean the drop, as much as feasible. Once you have cleared it, don't move the rope to a place you haven't cleared. In other words, if rocks fall when you ascend, you probably have done something wrong.