A seriously injured caver who was left stranded in a 900ft-deep cave system beneath the Brecon Beacons after plunging from a 50ft ledge has been rescued from the cave system.
The man in his 40s, who has been trapped since falling on Saturday, was pulled out of the caves in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu this evening by a team of rescuers.
Working in shifts, some 250 workers moved the man out of the cave system on a stretcher.
According to the BBC, the man is believed to be alive and well and in good spirits.
The operation, which has taken three days, is the longest of its kind to be conducted in Wales, with the man originally planned to be transported to hospital via air ambulance, but the wet weather meant the helicopter could not land.
The man has instead been brought down from the cave entrance and is being transported to hospital by car.
A seriously injured caver who was left stranded in a 900ft-deep cave system beneath the Brecon Beacons after plunging from a 50ft ledge has been rescued from the cave system following an operation which lasted longer than 48 hours
Working in shifts, some 250 workers (pictured) moved the man out of the cave system on a stretcher
The operation, which has taken three days, is the longest of its kind to be conducted in Wales, with the man originally planned to be transported to hospital via air ambulance, but the wet weather meant the helicopter could not land. The man has instead been brought down from the cave entrance and is being transported to hospital by car
Pictured: A group of the rescue workers are briefed on the mission ahead of entering the cave system earlier this evening
Nearly 250 emergency responders – including the team who saved 12 young Thai footballers in 2018 – were painstakingly transporting the injured man on a stretcher through narrow caverns interspersed with gushing streams and waterfalls.
The caver – who is understood to be from Hampshire and was staying in a £9-a-night cottage near the entrance to the caves – fell on Saturday after a boulder came loose in a section of the network known as Cwm Dwr, Welsh for Water Valley.
He was left unconscious for ‘some time’ and suffered suspected spinal injuries, a compound fracture to his leg breaking both his fibula and tibia, broken breast bone and collar bone – as well as suffering a broken jaw, mouth injuries and lacerations to his neck.
Today rescuers – who are working 12-hour shifts to carry out the ‘arduous’ task, said he was ‘in a bad way’ and was ‘lucky to still be with us’. His injuries are not life-threatening.
Another caver who was with the injured man on Saturday notified police who called in specialist rescuers that same day, but they were not able to free him. The cave system is 37 miles in length – making it Britain’s third longest.
The caver – who is understood to be from Hampshire and was staying in a £9-a-night cottage near the entrance to the Ogof Ffynon Ddu caves (where rescue workers are seen gathering)
The caver was left unconcious for ‘some time’ and suffered suspected spinal injuries, a compound fracture to his leg breaking both his fibula and tibia, broken breast bone and collar bone. Pictured are rescue workers by the cave entrance today
A file photo of a drop naer the section in the cave system where the caver fell and was seriously injured
One rescuer said the man fell when a boulder came loose underground the man fell ‘a considerable distance’ from a ledge.
He said: ‘He was also unconscious for some period of time and that is also very worrying because of how far he fell.
‘I understand he came down with the boulder and that made things worse.
‘Doctors have been sent down with bags of pain relief. He is on some pretty strong stuff and being treated with a nasal cannula.’
Julian Carter, warden at the south and mid Wales rescue team, said the cave held a lure for adventures as it was the deepest and the third longest in the UK.
He said the cave was split over many levels with active streams, technical sections, and steep climbs and has three separate entrances.
He said the site where the injured man was dry but dark and they had focused on keeping him warm and a floating stretcher was used as teams moved the man along an active stream way.
He said: ‘It has been a challenging rescue because of where this person was we couldn’t take them out of the nearest entrance.
‘The care has been excellent. We’re very good at keeping people warm and avoiding hypothermia.’
Fellow warden Paul Taylor said: ‘He has been talking with people with our fellow cavers who are his rescuers and that’s as much as we know.
‘If it will be today I don’t know but as far as I understand it’s going well. It will happen when it happens.’
The caverfell in the part of the caves known as Cwm Dwr – Welsh for water valley – not far from the entrance where he went in. But he could not be taken back out that way because of his injuries.
Instead rescue team had to inch him through another route past caving landmarks called Marble Showers and Great Oxbow to reach the surface at a mountain spot called Top Entrance.
Seven other specialist teams have travelled from across the UK to join the rescue effort with equipment vans from across Britain.
A statement the cave rescue HQ said: ‘ On Saturday a male caver was undertaking a trip in the Ogof FD cave system and fell, resulting in injuries that meant he could not exit under his own steam.
‘A fellow caver notified the police and the South and Mid Wales Cave Resuce team initiate a response.
‘This incident is on-going and involves teams from across the UK.
‘This incident has continued during the night. We are moving the casualty toward the top entrance of the cave which is located up on the mountain.’
The teams are working in 12-hour shifts in cold and damp conditions – and expect the rescue mission to go ‘slowely but carefully.’
The caver has been given medical treatment underground and other cavers have been with him while the rescue plan was put into place.
One caver said: ‘It is going to be a slow process but we are confident we can get him out for medical treatment.
‘We work on the basis that it will take ten times longer to get him out than it took him to get there. So if it took him three hours to reach the spot where he was injured then it could take us 30 hours to bring him back.
‘It is all about safety and doing it properly.’
A regular caver said: ‘It’s a well known cave system, very popular with cavers and it is in the middle of a nature reserve.
‘It’s a really popular cave system, usually recommended for more experienced cavers rather than novices.
Rescue teams are pictured today gathering outside the entrance to the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system in an isolated part of the Brecon Beacons
The length of the caves and presence of features like underground rivers is likely to make the rescue particularly difficult (pictured are rescuers near the cave entrance today)
The Ogof Ffynnon Ddu system was discovered by the South Wales Caving Club in 1946, according to Natural Resources Wales. Pictured here is are the South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team in the caves on a training exercise
Picture shows the entrance and exit hole of the cave which rescuers are using during the attempt to save a man who fell while caving
Rescuers near Penwyllt, Powys in the Brecon Beacons, where weather conditions are cloudy with limited visibility this afternoon
An ambulance at the scene in the Brecon Beacons this morning standing ready to treat any casualties
A map showing the enormous case system, which features several underground streams and waterfalls. It is unclear where the caver is currently located
Paul Francis, one of the oldest cave rescuers taking part, and who is responsible for the discovery of parts of the cave, called the incident ‘an unfortunate, chance accident’.
‘This incident is a one-off,’ he said. ‘Although this is a world-class cave system. It’s Himalayan by cave standards, it’s a fairly safe area. You’re more likely to be knocked down by a bus than this happening to you.’
The caves were discovered by the South Wales Caving Club in 1946, according to Natural Resources Wales, with underground streams and waterfalls.
They can only be accessed by cavers with a permit from the caving club.
The guide to the cave system is described as ‘classic in the UK, with passages that provide everything from huge chambers, beautiful formations, to yawning chasms and thundering river passages.
‘The routes though the cave are too numerous to mention.’
It adds: ‘Be aware that the mainstream and some other parts of the cave are prone to flooding, and in any event a journey down the mainstream is long and cold and wet, so go prepared.’
Involved are Gloucester Cave Rescue Group, Midlands Cave Rescue Organisation, Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation, Mendip Cave Rescue, South East Cave Rescue Organisation, Cave Rescue Organisation, and Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association.
Rescuers in the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system during a training exercise. Today, rescuers are trying to bring out the man who injured his back in fall while exploring the caves under the Brecon Beacons in Wales on Saturday
The South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team were called to use their specialist knowledge to help in the 2018 rescue from the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave when the Wild Boars junior football team became trapped.
The team members were underground for 18 days before being freed and the first voice they heard was Welsh caver John Volanthen.
The rescue team – a registered charity – was set up 1946 to support cavers exploring caves in the Swansea and Neath areas but expanded to cover emergencies across Wales.
They were also involved in the tragic search for missing schoolgirl April Jones.
The South & Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team led the successful rescue of a young Thai football team after they got stuck in a cave in 2018