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Rescuers save injured caver trapped by tide
By Richard Savill
(Filed: 24/07/2003)


A young caver who was trapped underground for 24 hours with a suspected broken pelvis remained cheerful and calm as she was rescued in a "superhuman" effort by 100 volunteers.

Laura Trowbridge, 22, an experienced caver, was taking part in a television documentary 500ft underground.

The alarm was raised on Tuesday afternoon after she fell seven feet from a ledge inside the cave. She was too hurt to make it out of the cave and her plight was made worse when part of the escape route flooded at high tide.

A 100-strong team rescued her after the tide dropped on the River Wye near Chepstow, allowing them to crawl through the muddy rock system.

She was carried 700 yards on a stretcher through mud and slippery rocks to the entrance of the Otter Hole cave by a chain of people who worked throughout the night and day.

Miss Trowbridge, a student from Taunton, Somerset, said "thank you, thank you" as she was brought to the surface at 4.20pm yesterday.

Peter Hobson, a rescuer, said: "She was put on a stretcher and was a super patient. She was very cheerful and calm and her attitude made our job so much easier. She must have been in a lot of pain but did not show it."

He added: "It was very tight and restricted in the caves and the amount of mud made movement difficult. It has been a superhuman effort by the rescue team in very difficult conditions."

Paul Taylor, of Gloucestershire Cave Rescue, said: "They were passing some equipment to each other and she just slipped. Luckily there was a doctor in the team who gave first aid to the woman."

The rescue operation was delayed by last-minute problems. The last 10 yards took more than two hours to complete, and Miss Trowbridge was given painkillers. One passage was compared to a letterbox. She had to be removed from the stretcher due to the tight passages and narrow tunnels.

She was later ferried by lifeboat to a waiting helicopter which flew her to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

Otter Hole Cave, which is 2,500 yards long, is famous for its hall of 13 stalagmites and stalactites. There have been no other injuries at the cave since it opened in 1974.

Miss Trowbridge was part of a nine-strong team, including a film crew working for the HTV television company, who were making a new series on "out of the way" places. Four of the team crawled for two hours out of the caves to raise the alarm. The other four, including the doctor, stayed with her.

Eleven members of a rescue team climbed into the cave system before the tide flooded the entrance. All 15 stayed with Miss Trowbridge until the tide dropped shortly before dawn.

Sam Moore, another rescuer, said: "I feel a great sense of relief. I have spent a lot of time lying on my back with the stretcher on top of me to keep it out of the mud. She was very determined throughout."

Miss Trowbridge, a member of Wessex Caving Club, is studying at Aberystwyth University, where she is secretary of the caving club.

Her parents, John and Susan, travelled from Somerset to the scene of the rescue and were said to be "very relieved" she was safe.

A spokesman for Redweather Productions, an independent company making the documentary for HTV, said viewers would not see the fall. "Unfortunately, our camera was nowhere near the incident so we did not get it on tape."

External links  
 
Otter Hole - UK Caves

http://www.ukcaves.co.uk/window.php?cave=41
 
Wessex Caving Club

http://wessex.dyndns.org/
 
Cave Rescue - Caving UK

http://www.caving.uk.com/Resources/Pages/rescue.html
 
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