Jim Wright, Jr. (19) and Steven Earnst entered Twigg's Cave in Alleghany County, Maryland, at about 8 p.m. on Friday, October 14. Reportedly, both were experienced cavers. They explored to a point some 850 feet horizontally and 300 feet vertically from the entrance. This included rope drops of 25 to 50 feet. The cave is made difficult by its voluminous, slimy mud.
Wright then pushed a very tight crawlway to the lip of a narrow, keyhole shaped, vertical fissure. This was rigged and Wright descended the short drop to a small room. On attempting to ascend, using Jumars, he found he was too tired to negotiate the lip and make the tricky move to force himself into the crawlway. This fatigue was certainly due at least in part to bad air in the cave which was to plague rescuers later. Shortly after midnight Earnst went for help.
They had entered the ave without permission so Earnst drove 14 miles to phone rather than go to the closest house. The State Police were called and began operations at 2 a.m. Saturday. Calls went out to various groups -- CRCN, ASRC, Pittsburgh Grotto and Mountain State Grotto. Before dawn two cavers arrived and checked on Wright's condition -- he was still standing in Jumars at the top of the drop.
In the morning, as recuers arrived the bad air was considered and a call went out for an air compressor and electric head lamps. The 40 foot pit was rigged with a cable ladder and for hoisting. Field telephone lines were run to the 40 foot pit. The victim was revived with bottled oxygen and lowered to the floor of the room he was in.
Saturday afternoon the air compressor arrived and was set up with 1000 feet of one inch hose run to the incident site. Rescuers worked in shifts of 4 to 6 hours. Between3 and 6 p.m. a thin caver was able to give Wright a drink of water. Between 10 p.m. and midnight two cavers talked Wright out of his Jumars and got him to tie in to the hoisting line with a chest loop.
At around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, the smallest caver available got to the lip of the drop and gave Wright some hot chocolate. He was then aided in tying a foot loop. A hoist was attempted and failed. This exhausted the hoist team and a fresh team was sent in. The victim was raised over the lip at about 9:30 a.m. He was hoisted up the 40 feet and made his way out, with assistance from there. He reached the surface at 11 a.m.
NSS News, May 1981 (Part 2) V39N5, Page A35-A36.
Ray Garton "Rescue from Twigg's Cave" NSS News March 1978 p 45-47.
Eleanor Chute Pittsburgh Press Oct 18, 1978 p A-8.
Editorial York Grotto Newsletter 14:3 Oct. 1977 p 50-51.
The bad air in the cave was undoubtedly the real cause of the entrapment. But explorers need to remember that it is relatively easy to slip down into something it may be nearly impossible to get out of. The rescue was greatly hampered by the bad air and the restricted passage beyond which the victim was situated.