Friday, November 27, 2009

UVA med student dies spelunking in Utah cave

[UPDATE: The body of John Jones will remain entombed in the cave, according to Utah authorities: "The popular Utah cave where a 26-year-old medical student died earlier in the week will be closed permanently and his body will not be removed, state and county officials said Friday."]

A University of Virginia medical student and his wife were home in Utah visiting family when he and his brothers went spelunking and he became lodged in a tiny portion of the cave. Rescuers were not able to pull him from the tiny space and he died 28 hours later.
John Jones, 26, of Stansbury Park, died early Thursday morning nearly 28 hours after he got stuck in Nutty Putty Cave, a popular spelunking site south of Salt Lake City. It was the first known fatality since cavers began exploring the 1,500-foot cave's narrow passageways in the 1960s, cave access manager Michael Leavitt said.
The 6-foot-tall, 190-pound Jones got stuck with his head at an angle below his feet about 9 p.m. Tuesday in an L-shaped area of the cave known as "Bob's Push." The area is only about 18 inches wide and 10 inches high.
On Wednesday, teams used drilling equipment, rope and a pulley system to try to free Jones.

At one point, they had moved him roughly 12 feet out of the tight crevice, far enough to give him some food and water. But he slipped back into the space when an anchor in the cave roof that supported the pulley system failed, Cannon said.

"We all were very optimistic and hopeful. But it became increasingly clear last night after he got re-stuck that there weren't very many options left," Jones' brother, Spencer Jones, 30, of San Francisco, told The Associated Press.

After he succumbed early Thursday, rescuers suspended efforts to recover his body as they considered the options to do so, Cannon said.

He said the cause of death would be released later by the medical examiner. A memorial service is planned for Saturday.

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