Injured caver halfway home
The Press and The Nelson Mail - The Nelson Mail
Monday, 27 August 2007
About 50 cavers from around the country have managed to get the Motueka doctor halfway through the Middle Earth caving system.
However, rescuers say they still have two major "squeezes" to get through, including a 30m vertical drop near the entrance.
District Search and Rescue coordinator Inspector Hugh Flower said they expect to have Brewer out sometime tomorrow.
A caver with 20 years' experience in Takaka and on the West Coast, Brewer has himself been involved in every cave rescue in the region in recent years.
District Search and Rescue coordinator Inspector Hugh Flower said 14 teams of rescuers were using ropes and rigging equipment to "squeeze" Brewer through the complex limestone cave system.
The rescuers spent three hours moving Brewer 50m from an area known as the Bungee Chamber to a section called Connection Pitch, and were about a quarter of the way out of the cave system by 9am. At 10.20am they had progressed to Smaugs Hall.
Flower said they went into the caves with a stretcher, but would not be able to use it at some points on their way out because of the "tight squeezes" and "ups and downs".
He said 50 cavers were involved in the rescue operation, which got under way at 5am yesterday. Some had been underground for 20 hours and were relieved at noon today.
Brewer was injured in a place that took five hours to reach in normal conditions, and was about 3km from the entrance to the caves and 400m underground.
Cavers from throughout the country have come to Nelson to help with the rescue, which Flower said was one of the most technically challenging missions Nelson's Search and Rescue team had been involved in.
Brewer was in a party of four cavers mapping the Greenlink-Middle Earth caving system when he was hurt.
One of his companions stayed with him, while the other two went to seek help. They re-entered the caves with a rescue team and a doctor yesterday morning.
They reached Brewer and established communications via an underground "michie" phone about 5.30pm, and Brewer was able to speak with his wife and teenage daughters.
Sarah Brewer spoke to her husband shortly after the rescue team established communication with him about 5.30pm yesterday.
She said he sounded cheerful and it was reassuring to speak to him.
Brewer said her husband could not remember what happened and was unsure whether he suffered his injuries when he was hit by a rock or in a subsequent fall. The rock which hit him, causingd him to lose his footing, measured 1m by 30cm.
Brewer, also an experienced caver, would usually work as a coordinator on rescue operations in the region.
She said she was grateful to the cavers who had rushed to Nelson from throughout the country yesterday to help with what would be a complex mission.
"There's basically everyone you'd want to be rescuing you turned up to help. "I know the systems, I know how things work, I know all the people that are involved and the response from the cavers has just been fantastic," Brewer said today.
She said her husband had been in the caving system dozens of times, and while he had been trapped by floodwaters before, he had never before been immobilised by injury while caving.
Flower said Brewer was warm, lucid and comfortable this morning. He was able to help his rescuers in some parts of the caves, but was unable to bear any weight.
Acting Nelson GP spokesman Dr Shaun McKenzie-Pollock said he trained at medical school with Brewer, who was a keen caver even then.
McKenzie-Pollock said Brewer had worked in Motueka since the early 1990s and was a very popular GP.
Nelson caver Hamish Perry said Brewer would have to be taken out through the Middle Earth cave system because the Greenlink system included two underwater ``sump'' sections.
Brewer and his party had entered the cave system through the Middle Earth system before taking a connecting sump into Greenlink, where the accident occurred.
In 2005, three experienced cavers spent 30 hours stranded in the Greenlink-Middle Earth system after a rope they were expecting to use to get out was left coiled out of reach.
In December 2004, four experienced cavers were helped from Harwood's Hole, a popular cave system on Takaka Hill, after a navigation error caused them to lose their way. It was the third rescue from the cave system that year.
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08-26-2007, 11:24 PM #1
Unique cave incident involved 50 rescuers (ongoing incident)
08-27-2007, 01:58 AM #2
Wow, I hope it goes smoothly for the remainder of the rescue.
I'm not claustrophobic, but Caving is one sport that would do me in.Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!
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