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Woman rescued after being trapped 16 hours in Calif. cave

The injured hiker was stuck in a narrow gap in the Thunder Canyon Cave and was unable to rescued by her friends

By David Hernandez
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — A 29-year-old woman was stuck in a 12-inch-wide “gap” in a cave in East County for about 16 hours before rescuers freed her late Sunday morning, a sheriff’s official said.

It occurred in an area known as Thunder Canyon Cave — made up of openings formed between piled-up boulders — off McCain Valley Road north of the rural community of Boulevard.

The woman was “traversing a narrow opening” in the cave with friends Saturday when she got stuck, sheriff’s Lt. Jeffrey Ford said. Her friends tried to dislodge her, to no avail, so they called for help about 6 p.m.

Deputies and search-and-rescue volunteers responded, along with California Office of Emergency Services personnel and a cave rescue team with the an Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Ford said rescuers reached her just after 9 p.m.

“It takes hours to hike into the caves and rescuers had to inch their way into very narrow passages while slowly passing along their gear and equipment,” Ford said in a news release. “They checked on the patient and kept her warm with blankets to prevent hypothermia.”

They used “roping mechanisms” to rescue her, the lieutenant added.

The woman was freed about 10 a.m. Sunday. A Cal Fire helicopter airlifted her to a spot where an awaiting ambulance crew treated her for exhaustion, scrapes and bruises, Ford said.

Ford issued a few reminders for those who go caving:

  • Never go caving alone
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you’ll return,
  • Stay on the trail if one exists,
  • Pay attention on your route,
  • Watch out for tight crevices, low ceiling, uneven footing and other hazards,
  • Wear proper clothing and shoes,
  • Bring light sources, and
  • Even though there may be no cell service in a cave, it is important to take a fully charged phone so you can call for help as soon as you’re outside.

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