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Cooking oil used to free teen trapped in cave

August 18, 2000

Cooking oil used to free teen trapped in cave



By DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


MONT ALTO, Pa. - A few ounces of Pocahontas cooking oil helped free a teenage girl trapped deep within a Guilford Township cave Thursday, according to Mont Alto Volunteer Fire Co. officials.

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"After we got her lubed up and the rope around her she slid right out," fire company Lt. Shawn Adolini said.

He said the girl had been trapped in the cave for more than four hours, but appeared to be all right except for a mild case of hypothermia.

Adolini said the girl, whose first name was Allie, was with a group of adults and teenagers from Maryland who were exploring the cave. He said she was treated at Chambersburg Hospital, but did not know her last name.

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A Fayetteville (Pa.) Volunteer Fire Co. report said the 13-year-old girl had gone into the cave at about 9 a.m. and became trapped about two hours later. The cave entrance was in a copse of trees along a fence line about 100 yards off Dairy Road.

"A man and a woman led us back to show us where the girl was," Adolini said.

The firefighters squeezed their way back to where the girl had lost her footing in a narrow passage. The girl had gotten wedged between two rocks.

"She was pretty shaken up," Adolini said.

"The main thing we were worried about was hypothermia," Adolini said. The girl had been trapped for about two hours before members of her group called rescue officials at about 1 p.m., he said.

"You could see your breath in there," said Mont Alto Deputy Fire Chief Darryl Nunemaker. He estimated the temperature inside the cave was about 50 degrees.

Adolini said people from the summer camp group the girl was with had removed some of her clothes to try and dislodge her. Firefighters and rescue personnel wrapped her in blankets and heat packs and set up a 500-watt quartz lamp to keep her warm, he said.

Nunemaker said Fayetteville firefighters brought a five-gallon container of the cooking oil. "We use it to cook French fries at our carnival," he said.

A saline bottle was emptied and then filled with the cooking oil, Adolini said. They emptied about half the bottle on her, looped a rope under her arms and pulled her free at about 3:30 p.m.

"I left the bottle down there just in case we need it again," Adolini said. "I just wedged it up in the cave."

"We've all been through confined space training and that was confined space, no doubt," said Darryl's brother Ed Nunemaker, the assistant fire chief.

The summer camp group had three or four experienced spelunkers with them, the firefighters said. The campers arrived at the popular caving spot in a van that Darryl Nunemaker said had Maryland license plates.

According to the Fayetteville Fire Co. report, rescuers first approached her from the cave's north entrance, but found the space too confining to make the rescue attempt. Emergency personnel reached her by using the cave's southern entrance.

In addition to Mont Alto and Fayetteville, the Medic 2 and Medic 7 units were on the scene, along with a South Mountain Volunteer Fire Co. ambulance and a utility truck from the Letterkenny Fire Department.

A Pennsylvania State Police helicopter carrying a trooper trained in cave rescues was also at the scene and the trooper assisted in the rescue, according to the Fayetteville Fire Co. report.

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