Turkey cave rescue of American Mark Dickey trapped 3,400 feet underground set to begin but could ‘take days’

Trapped American explorer sends video message from inside Turkish cave

An international team of cave rescuers and medical personnel are working to stabilise American cave expert Mark Dickey before conducting a rescue operation.

“We are now in a position to evacuate him [but] this operation will last at least three or four days,” Cenk Yildiz, a regional official from Turkey’s disaster relief agency, said.

Mr Dickey, 40, is on a mission to explore the Morca cave. But on Saturday, while exploring at 3,400 feet below the surface, he began suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding.

Authorities in Europe worked quickly to send a doctor down to Mr Dickey where they performed blood transfusions in the hopes of getting him strong enough to leave.

“I was very close to the edge,” Mr Dickey said in a video obtained by The Associated Press.

While Mr Dickey’s condition has improved thanks to a team of doctors from several countries, he may still need a stretcher to exit.

The cave system is described as extremely narrow with many twists and turns, making it difficult to navigate. It typically takes a person in good health around 15 hours to exit.


Six international rescue teams will assist in rescue

Six rescue teams from different countries apart of the European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) are working together to try to rescue American Mark Dickey from the Morca cave in Turkey.

At 3,400 feet, it will be incredibly difficult to get Mr Dickey, safely, out of the cave.

To make it easier, the ECRA is going to split seven parts of the cave up among the six teams. Each time will find solutions to conduct the rescue operation at a set number of feet.

The Bulgarian cave rescue team will first find a way to get Mr Dickey from 3,412 feet (where he is now) to 2,953 feet.

From there, the Croatian rescue team will get Mr Dickey to 2,345 feet.

Then the Italian rescue team will get Mr Dickey to 1,640 feet.

After that the Polish rescue team will take over to help Mr Dickey reach 1,181 feet.

Then the Hungarian team will assist in reaching 590 feet.

Finally, the Turkish team will help get Mr Dickey out of the cave and to the surface so he can reach proper medical care.

Ariana Baio8 September 2023 16:00


Communications improved

The European Cave Rescue Association said on its website on Friday that the cave had been divided into seven sections, with various rescue teams taking responsibility for each of the levels down the cave. Communication lines inside the cave had also been improved, it said.

“The doctors are working to further improve the patient’s health’s so that the difficult transport to the surface can begin soon without further complications.”

Chris Stevenson8 September 2023 15:19


Swapping doctors

Members of Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Team joined rescue teams from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Turkey late on Thursday.

The Italian organisation said six of their rescuers, including a doctor and nurse, reached Mr Dickey during the night.

The team is switching out the Hungarian doctor who has been tending to Mr Dickey with their own. The team planned to work to keep him stable for 15 to 20 hours before being replaced by another team.

Small camps are being set up at different levels inside the cave gave doctors, nurses and technicians a place to rest, the group said.

Ariana Baio8 September 2023 14:57


Images of the rescue operation

Rescuers arrive at a base camp to take part in the rescue operation for trapped explorer Mark Dickey

(Umit Bektas/Reuters)

The base camp of international rescuers is seen near the Morca Cave

(Umit Bektas/Reuters)

A rescuer holds a map of the Morca Cave during a meeting

(Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Chris Stevenson8 September 2023 14:34


Dozens of rescuers in the cave

Recep Salci, a Turkeish rescue official, told HaberTurk TV that doctors gave Mr Dickey IV fluids and 4 litres of blood inside the cave.

More than 30 rescuers were inside the cave on Friday afternoon, and teams comprised of a doctor and three or four others take turns staying with the American at all times, Mr Salci said.

“Our aim is to bring him out and to have him hospitalized as soon as possible,” he said.More than 170 people, including doctors, paramedics and experienced cavers, are involved in the rescue operation.

Chris Stevenson8 September 2023 14:12


Rescue plan on hold until doctors to give ‘go ahead’

A Turkish official has said rescuers are waiting for doctors to give the go-ahead for the difficult operation to begin.

Recep Salci, the head of AFAD’s search and rescue department, told HaberTurk TV that the plan was to lift Dickey on a stretcher but to use a “security belt” system to lift him through the cave’s narrow openings.

“We are trying to expand the narrow areas by making small explosions, by breaking some areas,” Mr Salci said.

Ariana Baio8 September 2023 13:49


Who is Mark Dickey?

His resume of cave explorations and expert status is endless: secretary of the ECRA medical committee, lead instructor for Caving Academy, a US-based organisation that prepares other cavers for exploration and a national instructor for the National Cave Rescue Commission.

He also volunteers with the New Jersey Initial Response Team, a nonprofit search-and-rescue team.

Having participated in many cave explorations in karst areas around the world for many years, Mr Dickey is knowledgeable and skilled – the kind of person you’d want on complicated cave exploration like the Morca mission.

Mr Dickey was on an expedition to map the 4,186-foot-deep cave system in southern Turkey for the Anatolian Speleology Group Association.

Photos from a Facebook page that seemingly belongs to Mr Dickey show him happily preparing for the mission by inspecting all the necessary gear before embarking.

Namita Singh8 September 2023 13:30


Caver describes the complexity of Morca cave

Carl Heitmeyer, the public information officer for the New Jersey Initial Response Team described the complexity of the cave system that Mark Dickey is in to New Jersey Patch.

“I compare it to Everest,” Mr Heitmeyer said.

“There’s twists and turns and squeezes,” he said. “There’s climbs both up and down. And then there’s the rope work, where you’re hanging on, climbing up. And then there’s water coming in…some of the times when you’re on rope, doing all that very technical stuff, you’re blinking because of the rain.”

Chris Stevenson8 September 2023 13:10


‘Cave divided into sections’

Gretchen Baker, a representative of the National Cave Rescue Commission in Huntsville, Alabama has spoken about how the route is being prepared for Mark Dickey to exit the cave. “The cave has been divided into seven sections, with different cave rescue teams working to prepare each section for Mark’s passage,” Ms Baker said. “This includes adapting the current rigging to rescue rigging, which can hold more weight and is in good places to put in haul systems. It also means enlarging the passages so that a litter can fit through.”

Mr Dickey will assist in his rescue, but to keep his condition stable, he will be put on a litter, a type of stretcher, “for at least part of the time,” Ms Baker told The Washington Post. “Using the litter protects him, but also means that it will take longer to get out of the cave, as there are many narrow, tight sections on the route out, and the litter is harder to fit through than a human body,” she added.

Chris Stevenson8 September 2023 12:48


Dickey’s parents thanks rescuers for efforts

Andrew and Deborah Ann Dickey, the scientist Mark Dickey’s parents, released a statement thanking rescuers for their life-saving efforts.

“Mark is strong, but he needed his fellow cavers, including, of course, the doctors, to allow a devastatingly scary situation to turn positive,” Dickey’s parents said.

“Our prayers are being answered and we cannot express how much that means, and will always mean, to us.”

Namita Singh8 September 2023 12:30

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