Safety tips for cavers - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Safety tips for cavers

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WSIL -- Crews in Thailand are busy trying to rescue 12 boys and their coach trapped inside a flooded cave. With rescue efforts fresh on everyone's minds, cave specialists extend a message of safety.

"Who knows how that cave where they're at is going to respond? Is it going to flood even worse or is it at that equilibrium where it's already flooded as much as it can because of elevation," said Chad McCain, the President of Missouri Caves & Karst Conservancy.

He said the situation in Thailand could also happen in our region.

"It can happen, really the only reason that it doesn't is those of us in organized caving that do go, we know to watch the weather," McCain said.

in 1993, St. Louis experienced one of the deadliest cave accidents in the United States, leaving 6 people dead after a caving expedition turned tragic at Cliff Cave.

"The unfortunate part about Cliff Cave in St. Louis is it is a sinkhole plain cave so when it rains it flash floods, it will flood to the ceiling and that's what led to the result 25 years ago," McCain said.

With a growing interest in cave exploration, McCain cautions people to take cave safety seriously. 

"Knowing the weather, but most importantly also knowing the cave itself, or what type of cave it is, what the recharge system is, what happens when it rains, that's fairly important," McCain said.

McCain said it's also important to pay attention to the physical appearance of caves. He said if you see surface debris matted to the ceiling, that could be a dead giveaway that the cave floods when it rains. 

He said it's important to dress properly, with cooler temperatures in the Midwest to avoid a potential case of hypothermia.

"You could get into a potentially fatal situation very quickly because a lot of caves around here are wet," McCain said.

McCain also said it's important to get permission from landowners before visiting caves on their property. And most importantly, cavers should be aware of their surroundings.

"You're lessening the risk every safety step you take," McCain said.

*Photos taken at Berome Moore Cave used in this story are by Derik Holtman*

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