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Tumbling Rock Cave Rescue 1.16.16

posted Jan 18, 2016, 7:47 AM by CHC Rescue Service   [ updated Jan 18, 2016, 8:51 AM ]
The Cave/Cliff Unit was requested for mutual aid by the Jackson CountRescue Squad to assist in the rescue of a teenager who had sustained severe injuries from a rockfall incident in Tumbling Rock Cave in Alabama around 5pm on Saturday afternoon. Approximately 20 members of CHCRS assisted Jackson County Rescue and the Huntsville Cave Rescue Unit in the overnight carryout from deep within the cave system and beyond a series of very tight and difficult crawls. Once the teams had moved beyond the crawls, the remaining 5,000 feet of cave is walking borehole but still required considerable manpower to move the patient across mountains of boulders and down steep grades. The rescue concluded around 5am with the patient being flown to Chattanooga via Lifeforce for medical evaluation and care. The rescue took approximately 12 hours and involved over 50 rescuers in the cave. This is the second cave rescue in the first three weeks of 2016 for CHCRS. 

Tumbling Rock Cave is a popular cave exploration destination for organized cavers, outdoor groups, scouts and novices. The cave is owned by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, a non-profit organization that protects caves and it's inhabitants from development or destruction. The cave has many miles of impressive passage and is one of Alabama's deepest and longest cave systems. It is also home to a rich history that dates back to the Civil War. The cave is novice friendly, but good preparation and adequate equipment is critical to safe, successful exploration of the cave. Explorers lacking the appropriate training or equipment have been subjects of rescues from this cave in the past.

In an interesting and rare twist, CHCRS 
was requested to respond to a second, simultaneous cave incident in Grundy County, TN. The two calls came in five minutes apart. Fortunately, the Coalmont Fire-Rescue Squad was able to handle to incident without CHCRS assistance. This allowed our team to focus on the Tumbling Rock Cave response. 

Simultaneous cave rescues are rare, with the only recorded incident occurring in 2011 when CHCRS responded to a cave rescue in Jackson County, AL and Van Buren County, TN to accidents that occurred within one hour of each other. Unusual events like these are rare as the number of cave rescues annually is 8 to 10 for the entire Southeastern United States.