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Firefighters rescue teen trapped 350 feet inside cave

Firefighters secured the girl with a harness after she became stuck while on a school field trip

By Kelsey Bradshaw
San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — Emergency personnel worked through the night to rescue a teenage girl from Robber Baron Cave after she became trapped there during a school field trip Thursday afternoon.

The San Antonio Fire Department first received a call that someone was stuck in the cave, located on the city’s North Side, around 2:40 p.m., said Joe Arrington, public information officer for SAFD. By that point, the 18-year-old had been stuck for an hour, he said.

Firefighters pulled her out around 11:45 p.m. and she was transferred to San Antonio Military Medical Center for treatment.

She became lodged in an area called the “Hole in the Floor” 350 feet into the cave. The area has a “narrow circular opening that you have to pass through,” Arrington said. The 18-year-old, who attends Robert E. Lee High School, has not suffered any injuries, he said, adding her arms and feet are not trapped while her torso is stuck.

She was hooked up to an IV while the rescue team attempted to free her, he said.

At p.m., SAFD Chief Charles Hood said firefighters built a support beneath the teen to help lift her out of the opening.

“At this time she is conscious. She is alert. She is a trooper,” Hood said at the time. “She is still in good spirits after everything that she has been through.”

The firefighters worked in 30 minute shifts using a chisel to carve through the rock to free the teen.

Hood said it took about five minutes and 40 seconds to reach the teen, after which they spent 20 minutes working before using another five minutes to get out.

Firefighters chipped away at the rock around her and even encountered tough limestone.

“We’re fighting with Mother Nature right now,” Hood said at the time.

In addition, Hood said opening the hole around the teen brought potential for her to slide down, which would constrict her diaphragm and make it difficult for her to breathe.

Rescue workers secured her in a harness that keeps her in place as they chisel at the rock.

They also placed cribbing and an air cushion beneath her to support her legs.

“As she had been in there for a while she has lost some leg strength,” Hood said. “We have continued to keep her warm, to keep her fed, to monitor her vitals.”

Hood said that the teen’s mother fought rush hour traffic from Houston and was at the scene along with other family.

District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry and North East Independent School District representatives were also present.

Cave experts with the Texas Cave Management Association had been attempting to rescue her about an hour before firefighters were called, officials said.

“We’ll be here for a while,” Arrington said. “It’s a long, drawn out process.”

Copyright 2018 San Antonio Express-News