After spending almost two days trapped in a narrow slippery cave, a 19-year-old Cumberland, Md., man was freed yesterday morning by other cave explorers who came from four states to help rescue him.
James O'Wright became trapped inside "Twigg's Cave" just outside Cumberland around 8 p.m. Friday night as he was exploring with a friend a section of the cave located 1,500 feet underground.
Wright, a student at Frostburg State College, emerged from the Cave about 11 a.m. yesterday tired, weak, cold and muddy, but otherwise unhurt, Maryland State Police said. He was taken to Memorial Hospital in Cumberland where he was listed in stable condition.
After he was freed, Wright said he did not feel "too bad considering I've been standing up for 36 hours," according to an Associated Press report. Doctors kept him from granting any interviews yesterday.
Wright was trapped when he became lodged in a fissure. The struggle to free him began around 2 a.m. Saturday after Wright's companion. Steven Ernest, 22, also of Cumberland, escaped from the cave and notified authorities that his friend was still trapped underground.
For several hours, all State Police could do to help Wright was send him bottled oxygen. About 200 cave explorers from Maryland. West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia arrived at the scene to offer their help and the use of their own cave exploring equipment, according to Cpl. J. H. Helmstetter of the Cumberland barracks. "But the lack of air affected even the rescuers," Helmstetter said.
It also was difficult for rescue workers to get to the youth because of the steep and narrow passageways in the cave, which are slippery because of underground streams, police said.
The phone company donated 1,000 feet of telephone cable so that Wright could communicate by phone with his parents and police and the Chessie System supplied air hoses so that rescuers could spend more time in the cave.
Eventually, the rescue workers were able to hoist Wright out of the crevice and onto a ledge using a harness, police said. It was then up to Wright to crawl through a series of narrow passageways.He was given hot packs and hot liquids to warm him and help him build up his strength so that he could make his way to safety, according to police.
Helmstetter said the cave is one of the largest and most dangerous in the state. Four years, ago, a couple were trapped in the cave for a week before they were rescued.