UPDATE: Missing students found SAFE

UPDATE: Missing students found SAFE
Daiki Ioah (Source: Facebook)
Daiki Ioah (Source: Facebook)
Casey Sherwood (Source: Facebook)
Casey Sherwood (Source: Facebook)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: Brandon Labat)
(Source: Brandon Labat)

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - The three Arkansas State University students who went missing in a cave in Independence County have been found and are safe.

OEM Coordinator Glen Willis confirmed the three students went missing in Blowing Cave near Cushman.

Willis said the three were found 30 minutes from the entrance of the cave.

Casey Sherwood, a senior at Arkansas State University, was leading the group on a spelunking trip. Wednesday evening, according to a news release from the university, his wife reported them missing to the University Police Department which in turn contacted the Independence County Sheriff's Office.

Two of the students with Sherwood, Daiki Itoh and Daisuke Takagi, are first-year students from Japan.

Sherwood said they were looking for a specific room.

He said they thought they found it but when they realized they had not, they turned around.

This is when Sherwood said they got lost.

He said he used his knowledge as a Cub Scout Master to keep them calm and in one spot.

Sherwood explained what they did to keep warm in the 58-degree cave.

"Got ourselves back to back to maintain body heat," Sherwood said. "Huddled up and just kept breathing warm air into our clothes and just sat it out conserving our energy for whenever hopefully the time the rescuers would find us."

Sherwood and his wife were happy to be together again after hours of not knowing if they would make it out.

He said he was ready to get home, take a shower and warm up.

Acting Arkansas State University Chancellor Lynita Cooksey released this statement shortly after they students were found:

"On behalf of all the faculty, students and staff of Arkansas State, I want to thank the rescue teams of Independence County and all the volunteers who came forward to assist.  We are so grateful for their hard work in locating Daiki, Daisuke and Casey.  I also want to thank all the members of the Arkansas State University family and the Jonesboro community who kept them in their thoughts and prayers all day during the search.  We are awaiting further information from the county officials near the cave in Independence County."

Only two miles into the cave is reportedly mapped without an exit. No one has mapped it completely.

It is said to be very slippery and muddy with several cracks, according to a person who frequents the cave.

Willis says two crews began searching for the students at 1:45 a.m. Thursday.

Crews searched nearly three-quarters of a mile into the cave by Thursday afternoon, according to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.

Willis says parts of the cave is very narrow and people have to crawl in some areas to get through.

Members of Lyon College who map caves also aided search crews. The Calico Rock Fire Department and the Melbourne Fire Department searched as well.

Acting Arkansas State University Chancellor Lynita Cooksey released this statement before the students were found:

"We are praying for both the searchers and our students who are missing.  Arkansas State is between semesters, and many of our students go out to explore the surrounding nature areas.  Our UPD, Academic Affairs and Student Services personnel are supporting the Independence County Sheriff with information and photographs of the students."
For an inside look at the cave here is a YouTube video from user Brian Agee:

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