First responders take part in cave rescue training

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - You might remember last summer when three Arkansas State University students got stuck in the Blowing Cave outside of Cushman.

They were rescued about a day after they went missing.

At the time, crews of Lyon College came to help the rescue efforts because they have mapped the caves.

However, this year, fire crews in Independence County are getting some cave rescue training.

According to Aaron Christopher, a member of the cave and cliff rescue team for Independence County, the cave incident back in August was a blessing in disguise.

"It kind of got the ball rolling," he said. "It's something that we needed in our county, and that's a cave and cliff rescue team."

Christopher also said they were able to get in contact with the right people to create a cave and rescue team.

He said they're getting the best instructors in the nation. The National Cave Rescue Commission will lead the county's emergency responders in a 3-day class.

"They're coming down to help us understand the difficulty of the cave rescue," he said. "What it would take to package someone up in there; and get them out safely. In addition, we're also going to perform some high angle techniques, some rope work."

However, Christopher said this rescue class isn't opened to the public. He said they're going to be really focused on the people who are going to be responding to the incident.

According to Tony Younger, OEM deputy and 911 dispatch for Independence County, the current issue that they're facing is getting the funding for equipment.

"It takes ropes, it takes different baskets to carry them out with and stuff like that to be able to go in and get someone," he said. "They've looked into some packages that we can get, but we're going to have to see where we can go and how we can go about that."

Younger said the cave and rescue training class is scheduled for the Feb. 24-26. He said the cave and rescue team will start their monthly training to get everyone comfortable in those environments.

Christopher said there are hundreds of caves located in Independence County, and it's only a matter of time before another rescue is going to be needed.

"Cave rescue is probably one of the most difficult rescues to perform simply because of the conditions," he said. "Multi-spaces, hyperthermic conditions. I'm super pleased with the volunteers that have stepped up to take on such a task."

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