Rescuer recounts finding missing students in cave

A rescuer talks about the rescue
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Three Arkansas State University students were able to walk out of Blowing Cave in Independence County Thursday after they'd been missing in there more than 24 hours.

The men who rescued them were more than just heroes to one of the men, they were familiar faces.

Jeremy, Johnny and David Terrell know Blowing Cave well. Jeremy's been taking people inside of it since 1999.

"Maybe sounds crazy, but we do it for fun," Jeremy Terrell said.

When Terrell started getting texts from friends asking him about the cave on Thursday, it took him awhile to realize what was going on. Without Facebook, he didn't know there were three missing people in the cave he knows so well.

"And then people started texting me, people are caught in the cave," Terrell said.

He quickly learned it wasn't just "people" either. One of the missing men was a member of his church, and a friend, Casey Sherwood.

"I've known his dad for a long time," Terrell said. "So there was a sense of obligation kind of there. I know the cave, and we gotta go."

Terrell said he and his brothers geared up, and got to Blowing Cave around 1 p.m. Thursday. At that point, the men had been in the cave more than 24 hours.

"When we got there, there was a third group that had already gone in," Terrell said.

None of the groups had found any sign of the missing men yet.

"When you see people coming out and nobody's finding them, you do get a little discouraged," Terrell said. "You start thinking about...well what could happen?"

Discouraged, but determined, the Terrell brothers set out.

"At that point, we stopped, said a prayer, looked at each other and said we're not coming out of this cave until we find them," Terrell said.

Thankfully, because of their familiarity with Blowing Cave, Terrell said they were able to move faster than the previous groups. It didn't make the trip any easier, though.

"You get into water. There's a few times you're swimming, then you're in mud and you're sliding around. Then you're crawling through holes," Terrell explained.

A couple hours in, and off the beaten path, the Terrell brothers stopped to yell again. Finally, they heard a reply.

"When we heard them yelling, Johnny turned around and looked at us and the excitement on his face, I wish I could bottle that up because he was super excited," Terrell said.

He explained that they came close to not finding the men either.

"Thank goodness we decided to stop there and yell because we would have went down the main shaft of the cave and maybe have passed them even," Terrell said.

Though Jeremy and his brothers would have gone in and searched no matter who was lost, being able to find someone they knew personally made it that much more special.

"I don't think he would have thought in a million years that he thought three people from his church would be the ones finding him," Terrell said. "In some ways it was like a storybook ending of how great this is and that's what you want."

Terrell said it took them about two hours to get out of the cave after they found the three men. He said if one of them had been seriously injured, it would have likely taken them ten hours.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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