Man freed after 19 hours in cave
A spelunker was rescued from a Glenwood Springs cave Sunday afternoon after he was trapped for 18 hours.
Rob Gillespie, 38, of Durango, described by one rescuer as tall, but thin, was exploring a cave with two friends on Iron Mountain below the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park – but not on the park’s property – Saturday night when he became stuck.
It took 27 cave rescuers from all over the state about eight hours to get Gillespie out once they were notified. According to witnesses, Gillespie was shaken, but not injured.
“The people involved initially didn’t call right away, so it took them quite a while to get him out,” Glenwood Springs Fire Lt. Chad Harris said. “They tried to formulate a rescue on their own.”
According to a fire department news release, the three spelunkers entered the cave around 6 p.m. Saturday. Gillespie became stuck sometime later Saturday evening.
At 8:55 a.m. Sunday, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office was called, then the Glenwood Springs Fire Department was notified of the rescue. “We formed a group of experienced cave rescue personnel from throughout Colorado,” Harris said.
The group is called the Colorado Cave Rescue Network. Members began arriving at the scene at noon Sunday. L.P. Lawrence of Colorado Springs, a member of the network who arrived at the scene at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, described the rescue.
“The guy was still trapped,” she said. “It was almost under the tram, it was kind of below the tour part of the caves.”
Lawrence said the three spelunkers were inside a cave on private property. They were digging in an attempt to find a new cave room. “It was a very tight little area where he was,” she said.
Lawrence said it’s likely that a combination of fatigue and the tightness of the area caused Gillespie’s hip to become pinned.
“His stomach faced the ground, his head was down and his legs were bent,” she said. “One of his arms was pinned to his chest.”
Rescuers used a small electric jackhammer and a drill with a 2 1/2-foot bit to drill around Gillespie’s pinned hip, freeing him from the cave’s grip.
“They did have to chisel a little rock,” she said.
Once rescuers loosened the rock around Gillespie’s hip, Lawrence said the man with whom she traveled 4 1/2 hours from Colorado Springs, Daniel Laos, was able to creep into the cave and release pressure from Gillespie’s hip.
She said because Laos is small, he was the only person on scene able to fit deep enough into the cave to reach Gillespie. Laos lifted Gillespie’s leg, and put his arm under Gillespie’s hip, she said. That help allowed Gillespie to move from the tight spot and climb out of the cave.
Gillespie emerged from the cave at 5 p.m. Sunday dehydrated, but otherwise unhurt.
“He was a little bit sick while he was in the cave,” Lawrence said of Gillespie, “but afterwards he was able to drink.”
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