Reporting Mike Schuh
CLEAR SPRING, Md. (WJZ)– A group of Hopkins students get an inside education on how a full-scale rescue works.
As Mike Schuh reports, a student on a class trip got stuck in a cave hundreds of feet from safety.
“Washington County 911. What’s the address of your emergency?”
911 Caller: “I’m a Johns Hopkins student and I came here with the outdoors group, and one of our members is stuck in the cave.”
That student left the cave to call 911, while two others stayed with the victim.
911 Caller: “Could you please send someone to help?”
The problem was there are only a handful of people professionally trained in cave rescue.
“It was very unusual,” said Kevin Lewis, director of emergency services for Washington County, said.
The emergency was that a 20-year-old Hopkins student who couldn’t fit past one point in the rocks was 250 feet from safety.
First to arrive was the chief of the small town of Clear Spring.
“That’s when we determined this is way over our level of expertise at trying to remove him,” Chief Mike Reid of the Clear Spring Fire Department.
The deputy chief from Maugansville was then at the opening.
“The hole is 1 foot wide by 3 feet long,” Ian Swisher of the Maugansville Fire Department said.
Immediately, he realized the people who explore caves are smaller than most of us.
“I started to go into the hole, got about chest high and came back out,” Swisher said.
The images from the internationally known Montgomery County rescue team don’t do justice to how narrow and confined the cave is.
The turning point came when the rescuers realized they’d never make it down to the man, so they turned their chisels over to the students.
There was not enough room to use a hand, so they were trained to operate the fire department’s portable air chisel.
“We had no choice, we had no choice or there’s a good possibility we still might be here,” Reid said.
The students then successfully chipped away at the rock pinning his knee.
The victim climbed out, and then was airlifted to Shock Trauma, rescuers concerned about circulation to his leg.
“So that was a big sigh of relief,” Reid said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the Hopkins team, minus the trapped man, returned to go back in and retrieve gear left behind. The professionals have nothing but admiration for how these amateur experts performed.
Schuh: “It’s like you guys were there for support but the cavers themselves were the experts.”
Reid: “That’s exactly right. That’s who were the experts on this one.”
The students and their advisor tell WJZ they’re not yet ready to talk about what happened down in this cave other than to say the young man is alright.
Before this happened, county emergency officials said they had no idea that cave was there and open to the public.