Kentucky caver explores differences from Thai rescue

Updated: Jul. 8, 2018 at 8:28 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - With water up to their necks, the sights of rescue efforts in a flooded Thai cave can be shocking.

Progress is being made slowly, as crews work to remove children and their soccer coach from the dangerous situation and rising waters in Thailand.

The Associated Press reported that four people were rescued on Sunday, but nine remain inside.

One Kentucky caver knows just how scary it can be when water begins to flow underground.

"It's noisy, the walls are thundering, there's water in places you've never seen water before,"  American Cave Conservation Association Director Dave Foster said. "It's a frightening thing."

In 2016, 17 people were trapped inside Hidden River Cave, which is located under the city of Horse Cave in Hart County. Those trapped were part of a tour group of students and teachers from Clemson University.

"All of us thought at some point that we may not make it," Kien Pham, a college student who was stuck in the cave, said, in 2016.

That after an unsuspected rain began flooding the cave, as described by a guide trapped inside shortly after reaching the surface two years ago. The rising water cut off some passages and access points.

"Next thing you know, as we were moving forward, we started seeing the water in the cave where we normally don't see it," guide Gary Russell said.

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Foster said that incident was different from what's unfolding in Thailand now.

"Our situation, we really considered it more of an evacuation than a rescue," Foster said.

The situation in Hart County was an evacuation as opposed to a rescue because the system didn't close down by the time all the cavers had escaped, which took a matter of hours.

Nonetheless, Foster said cave diving under any circumstance, including rescue efforts like those in Thailand, is extremely difficult.

But on the phone Sunday he noted something that he uttered once before when he worked the Hidden River evacuation in Kentucky.

"Caves are natural resources that people are generally afraid of," Foster said.

A reason, he added, that he thinks cave rescues get a lot of attention, despite the majority of them turning out okay.

Foster said he doesn't want that anxiety to change how caves as a natural resource are preserved and enjoyed.

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