Cave Rescue, October 25, 1996
Laurel Caverns, PA


REPORT

On October 25, 1996 a middle school group from Pittsburgh was on a guided trip of the "wild" section of Laurel Caverns located near Uniontown, Pennsylvania. At about 1:15 p.m. the group of approximately 70 was in the Mill Stream Section of the Cave. A female of approximately 13 years stood up too fast or something along those lines hitting her head on the ceiling of the cave. At the time she was wearing a helmet which stayed on her head and prevented serious injury. However, the injury was severe enough that it was deemed necessary by the guide to start a full rescue.

A small group was sent out of the cave with word of the injury thus starting the rescue effort. At approximately 2:00 PM phone calls were made to various groups alerting them to the rescue. Groups notified included local Fire and EMS, West Virginia University Student Grotto, Western Maryland Grotto, and Monongahela Grotto. Over the next few hours outside groups started arriving thus getting the rescue into full swing.

Packing of the patient was slowed by the fact that full precautions were taken to immobilize the head and spine since it was feared that there was injury in that area. At approximately 3:20 PM the patient was fully packaged in a Ferno Washington - 71 stretcher and movement was started out of the cave. At various points throughout the extrication movement was stopped so that an assessment of the patient could be made. The patient was at the entrance of the cave at 6:30 PM where she was transported to a local hospital via ambulance.


References

ER-NCRC Web Page report, personal account, Douglas Moore 10/29/96.


Analysis

This incident clearly justifies the need for every caver to wear a helmet at all times. If she had not been wearing a helmet neck and spine injuries could have been extreme. It also clearly warns people of knowing where they are standing up. This rescue took five hours to accomplish in probably one of the easiest caves to rescue from. One could only imagine how long it would take if the patient had been a caver in a remote section of a wild cave.

In closing, Cave Rescue is now a Science at Laurel Caverns.