Members of the Vermont Cave Rescue Network, Mount Tabor/Danby Fire Department, Manchester and Rutland ambulance and the Vermont State Police Tuesday at 2 a.m. rescue a 16-year-old girl from the Falls Cliff cave in Danby where she had fallen and was injured and could not get out. It required a technical rescue from cavers called in by a emergency response network from throughout the state.
Photo: Vyto Starinskas / Rutland Herald
DANBY — A 16-year-old girl was rescued from a cave after about four hours of rescue efforts from firefighters and volunteer cavers Tuesday morning in Dorset Mountain, near the border between Dorset and Danby, where she had gotten trapped after falling into a tight area.
According to the Vermont State Police, the girl was part of a group from Kroka Expeditions, of Marlow, N.H. Members of the group were leaving the cave when the girl slipped and fell a “considerable distance” into what police said was a “narrow and difficult to reach area of the cave.”
Police said the group’s leaders, who they said were experienced cavers, were able to talk with the girl but couldn’t get her out of the cave.
Steve Hazelton, of Rutland, a member of the Vermont Cave Rescue Network, said the girl had become trapped in the cave because of its unusual configuration. The cave, called False Cliff Cave, has a tight horizontal entry point and then opens up almost immediately to a drop of about 20 feet, Hazelton said.
Hazelton and Danby/Mt. Tabor Fire Department Chief Kenneth Abbott said they didn’t know the extent of the girl’s injuries, if any, but both pointed out that she was an active participant in her rescue.
Police and firefighters were unable to provide the name of the girl on Tuesday but said in a press release she was from Florida.
Rescue workers were called to the cave a little after 7 p.m. Abbott said some of the other members of the girl’s party were able to help his department, and the East Dorset Fire Department, locate the cave.
Abbott said he quickly realized the rescue workers would need the help of experienced cavers.
According to Hazelton, an emergency medical technician, who is also a caver, contacted him to tell him about the situation. Hazelton maintains a “phone tree” of volunteer cavers who help out in rescue situations like the one on Monday night.
“Those situations in Vermont caves are not your typical rescue by any means. It takes teamwork,” Hazelton said.
According to Hazelton, the first thing that needed to be done was to identify the cave correctly. Experienced cavers have found that sometimes rescue workers don’t know the caves as well as those who regularly explore them.
A military-style phone and wire were provided to rescue workers, the girl and member of her expedition so communication could be established.
Abbott said rescue workers used plastic canvases to divert a stream of water that was flowing into the cave.
Hazelton said he didn’t speak to the girl directly but rescue workers were able to establish that she could participate in her own extrication.
According to Hazelton, the girl’s mobility made a big difference. After the 20-foot ascent the girl needed to make, there was a difficult corner to turn to get the horizontal access to the surface. Hazelton said there really wouldn’t have been any room in the narrow access corridor for anyone to help her make the corner.
Rescue workers were able to drop her ropes, so she could safely make the ascent, and a rope ladder.
Once she turned the corner, the girl could have been pulled from the access corridor by a special stretcher used for cave rescues, according to Hazelton, but she decided to leave the cave on her own.
The girl left the cave around 1 a.m., according to police.
Abbott said he believed the girl was taken to Rutland Regional Medical Center primarily for observation. She was reportedly later released. Firefighters and members of the girl’s expedition had been able to provide blankets to keep her as dry and warm as possible.
Abbott said he was pleased by the coordination and cooperation between the fire departments and the volunteer cavers who worked together to get the girl out of the cave safely.
Vermont State Police referred calls about the girl’s identity to Mathias Dammer of Kroka Expeditions of Marlow, N.H. An employee of Kroka said they would issue a statement today.
According to their Web site, Kroka is an “Earth living skills school dedicated to assisting young people in developing strong character, responsibility, community and a sense of place in harmony with nature,” which teaches adventure sports and wilderness living.
The Web site also describes one of their classes, “Caves, Cliffs and Waterfalls,” taught by Dammer, which takes place from June 22 to July 5 and takes place, in part, in Dorset.
“Each caving day we will explore new caverns, going deeper into the underground world as we gain experience in speleology, the skill and science of caving. We’ll scurry through tunnels, wade through underground streams and witness stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming for thousands and thousands of years,” the Web site said.
Hazelton, who has been caving primarily in Vermont for 25 years, said the problems rescue workers had on Monday were fairly typical of Vermont caves. Because they are made of marble, not limestone, the caves tend to be not as deep but the access paths are tighter and smaller than in limestone caves.