Rescued Caver Lost 'Grotesque Amount of Blood'

ABC News

A cave explorer is recovering in a Chattanooga, Tenn., hospital today after he fell 30 feet in one of the nation's deepest caves, suffering head and leg trauma.

Dwight Kempf, 54, of Pennsylvania is listed in critical yet stable condition at Erlanger Medical Center with a skull fracture and broken femur, his wife, Jill Kempf, said in a statement.

More than 100 rescuers worked for nearly 24 hours to rescue Kempf after the fall, Buddy Lane, assistant chief of the Hamilton County Rescue Service, told ABCNews.com.

The mission deep into Ellison's Cave near Lafayette, Ga., began Sunday night after Kempf's friends alerted authorities he was trapped and injured inside the cave, which has the deepest known pit in the United States, Lane said.

Andy Voss, a paramedic with the Hamilton County Rescue Service, said friends who stayed behind with Kempf helped control his bleeding until paramedics arrived.

"He had an obvious leg injury that caused a grotesque amount of blood loss and he had a pretty good injury to his forehead," Voss said. "He took a substantial amount of trauma in the fall."

Voss said Kempf was about 800 feet deep into the cave when rescuers began the tedious process of climbing out of the pit while trying to keep Kempf alive.

"His level of consciousness decreased from throughout the trip, so I had to keep him under a level of sedation," Voss said. "He didn't understand what was going on. We just reassured him we were there to help him."

Kempf was pulled from the cave Monday at 1:30 p.m., and was rushed to Erlanger Medical Center for treatment.

Jill Kempf said she was waiting to see how her husband would recover from his injuries, but said the fact that he is alive was a testament to the experience and preparedness of Kempf, his fellow cavers and the rescue team.

"Dwight's slip was a fluke but also turned out to be an example of how everything works they way it's supposed to," she said.

Voss said he and his fellow team members receive one or two calls a year for cave rescues, but this year they have already received six calls for help in the picturesque cave.

"It is a beautiful place," he said, "but it can be unfriendly."

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