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Cave in which man was trapped has tight passages

Schetromph Cave's makeup complicated Tuesday's rescue effort

January 25, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION and DAN DEARTH | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Firefighters and emergency personnel gather Tuesday night at the the entrance of Schetromph Cave on Cresspond Road while working to free a man trapped in it. Jerry Bowen, of Tri-State Grotto, a Martinsburg, W.Va.-based caving organization, says the cave has tight passages that are only about a foot high and other sections where cave explorers must turn their bodies sideways to pass through.
Herald-Mail file photo

CLEAR SPRING — A cave along Cresspond Road where a man became trapped Tuesday has tight passages that are only about a foot high and other sections where cave explorers must turn their bodies sideways to pass through, a member of a caving group said Wednesday.

At the entrance of Schetromph Cave, the passage drops down 6 to 8 feet, then goes forward about 6 feet, according to Jerry Bowen, of Tri-State Grotto, a Martinsburg, W.Va.-based caving organization that assisted crews in Tuesday’s difficult rescue.

After the cave goes 6 to 8 feet to the left, the cave drops down, which is followed by a “corkscrew,” said Bowen of Hagerstown.

Beyond the corkscrew, there is a crawl way that narrows to only about a foot high. That is where the man, identified Wednesday as James Tracey, became trapped, Bowen said.

Tracey, whose age and address were unavailable Wednesday, became trapped when he slid down an area in the cave, causing one of his legs to become wedged in some rocks, rescue officials said.

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Tracey was taken to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore Tuesday night as a precaution, according to Fire Chief Oley Griffith of The First Hose Co. of Boonsboro.

Washington County Emergency Services Director Kevin Lewis said Tracey was part of a four-person caving party from the Baltimore area.

“They apparently were experienced cavers,” he said.

Advanced technical rescue units from Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties worked their way back to Tracey to rescue him after receiving the first call at 5:42 p.m.

Rescue crews were able to finally free Tracey, who was uninjured. He was brought out of the cave at about 10:15 p.m.

Safety officials were concerned Tracey might have suffered tissue damage because his leg was pinned for more than four hours.

Rescue workers used an air chisel to chip away the rock to free the Tracey’s leg, Lewis said. Tracey was alert throughout the ordeal.

Lewis said he wasn’t sure how much the rescue would cost taxpayers. At least 40 rescue workers responded from a number of local agencies, including Maryland State Police.

He said the Urban Search and Rescue unit from Montgomery County, Md., also was called.

“We haven’t even put a cost on it,” Lewis said. “We’re still doing the paperwork. It was a significant rescue.”

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