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Top 5 Misadventures in Caves that have led to Death

These stories detail the dangers of spelunking

By Author Eve S EvansPublished 8 months ago 6 min read

Despite the inherent dangers, more than 2,000,000 Americans visit caves every year. For many people, the rewards of experiencing some of Earth's most remote locations in person outweigh the risks. Caving can be a dangerous activity, with an average of 15 people facing injuries each year in the United States. From 1980 to 2008, a total of 81 caving deaths were reported, mostly due to traumatic injuries.

Cave diving is one of the most dangerous adventure activities, due to the inherent risks involved in exploring underwater cave systems. Despite these risks, many cave divers are drawn to the sport because of the thrill and excitement it offers. Cave fatalities are often caused by falls, rocks, drownings, and hypothermia. Here is a list of some of those tragic events.

1) The Cave of Death - Provo, Utah

In an attempt to swim to an underground chamber through an underwater passageway, two young men and two young women tragically drowned. The cave was originally a mineshaft that had water flowing out of it over the years. After the incident, officials in Provo, Utah sealed the entrance.

The cave is an intriguing sight, a short, brooding entrance, tucked into the mountainside. Unfortunately, it has been dubbed "the cave of death" by locals, which is now an accurate name after this tragedy. The cave was once a mineshaft, but it is now abandoned.

The allure of the cave beckoned five friends. Four of them went inside, but after hours passed with no sign of the others, the fifth decided to go seek help.

Rescue and recovery crews quickly formulated a plan to pump air into the cave and water out. A few hours later, they retrieved the body of one of the young women. Soon after, they successfully extracted the other three through the cave entrance. The four individuals most likely drowned in a section of the mine that required them to go underwater, according to one of the rescuers.

2) The Wabasha Street Caves - Saint Paul Minnesota

Shortly after a harrowing adventure, a teenager who was rescued from the caves showed signs of improvement in the hospital. The day before, three of his friends had died from carbon monoxide poisoning while exploring the Wabasha Street caves. The fourth teenager was rescued in serious condition.

Rescue workers found the teenagers about 600 feet into the caves. The source of the fumes was not immediately known, but one official said cave visitors sometimes start fires thus this could have been attributed to the fumes. Another boy, who escaped the cave on his own and alerted authorities, was taken to a hospital and released.

Since 1988, three other people have died in the caves - one from drowning, one from a fire, and one in a cave collapse. Even though the caves have been marked with tragedy, they still hold a rich allure that has attracted many curious youngsters over the years.

The local brewery used to dig out some of the caverns to create earthen warehouses. For decades, a mushroom-growing operation flourished in the moist, dark caves. In the 1930s, the caves even hosted a nightclub called the Castle Royal. Mobsters and big-name entertainers were said to frequent the spot as well.

3) The Nutty Putty Caves - Utah

John Jones had extensive experience with spelunking and viewed it as a beloved hobby. On November 24th, 2009, Jones embarked on a cave exploration adventure with 10 others at Nutty Putty Cave, located approximately 80 miles south of Salt Lake City. While in the cave, Jones became wedged in a small space known as “Bob’s Push.” This area is an L-shaped curve that is roughly 150 feet below the surface and measures 18 by 10 inches. Due to the positioning of the rocks, Jones was pinned in place.

John's brother Josh found him after he fell into the crevice. Josh was anxious and tried to pull John out, but he only managed to inch him up a tad. As soon as Josh let go, John slid right back down. John was in a difficult position, with one hand pinned and the other forced backward. Although his ankles and feet were free, gravity was working against him. Josh and John prayed quickly before Josh hurried back down to the ground. He wiggled out of the passage as fast as possible and rushed to the surface. Once outside, he called for help while their friend stayed with John.

Within the next few hours, rescuers arrived in droves. The rescue team quickly brainstormed a few different plans. At the same time, they also tried drilling away chunks of rock near John, but the hard material and awkward position made drilling a slow and painful process. After several hours of drilling, they had only managed to penetrate a few inches. They then tried using a pulley system.

When the rescuers installed their pulley system and started to pull John out, everything changed. They worked together as a team of eight, all tugging on the rope. However, disaster struck when the rope broke and John slid back down the crevice. He seemed to be wedged even deeper than before.

By the time the rescuers realized that John was in trouble, his breathing was shallow and he was barely alive. They called out to him, but the response was only silence. John was pronounced dead at midnight on November 25, soon after a medical professional reached him.

The search-and-rescue team worked tirelessly for 27 hours, but unfortunately, they were unable to free John. One of the volunteers said this was the most difficult rescue he's done in his 29 years of volunteering.

4) The Mossdale Caverns - Yorkshire Dales, England

Even though he was tired, Peter fought against sleep in the hopes that help would come. But eventually he succumbed to exhaustion and dozed off. When he woke up, he was still alone in the dark cavern. He had nothing to eat and nothing to do but wait.

The six missing cavers were presumed to have drowned in an underwater passage.

5) Sterkfontein Caves- South Africa

Peter Verhulsel was always willing to take risks. In 1984, when he and his friends were cave diving in Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa, he disregarded all safety guidelines and ventured into uncharted territory. He was curious and wanted to explore every nook and cranny the caves had to offer.

The third time Peter explored passages off the planned path, his friends couldn't find him. He swam through a maze of tunnels and soon realized that he was lost. He was trapped alone in a cave with no idea how to get out. All hope seemed lost, but then he found a small island at the end of a tunnel. He climbed out of the water and onto the island, which gave him a chance to catch his breath. His oxygen was running low, but he knew he had to conserve it as much as possible. He didn’t have enough oxygen left to find his way out, so he waited for rescue.

Peter waited for hours before he gave in to exhaustion and fell asleep. When he woke, no help had come. He sat in a pitch-black cavern with nothing to eat and nothing to do but wait.

Although the search for Peter took six weeks, rescuers were ultimately unsuccessful. When his body was finally found, it was little more than a skeleton. He had left a final message for his wife and mother scrawled in the sand, which read: "I love you, Shirl and Ma." It's highly likely that he died from starvation, given how emaciated his body was when it was discovered.


About the Creator

Author Eve S Evans

After residing in two haunted houses in her lifetime, Eve Evans is enthralled with the world of paranormal. She writes ghost stories based on true events and fictional thriller & horror novels.

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