Cave diving rescue in France

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Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 5, 2010 9:06 am

Monday, Oct 4, 4:30 PM ET

Eric Establie, a French cave diver who left on a difficult exporation dive Sunday morning (French time = + 6 hours from our Eastern US time), has not returned. The cave (Dragonnière de Gaud near Labastide de Virac, in the Ardèche region, France) is a difficult cave, with depth requiring decompressions, a yo-yo profile, muddy walls and floors that can degrade visibility. Eric was planning on pursuing exploration at the current end, 1040 meters inside the cave, at -42 m depth, but behind two low spots at -87 and -70 meters. His dive was to last 6 hours. He carried two rebreathers, two scooters, and five air tanks, plus 450 meters of dive line.

An attempt to find Eric, made on Sunday evening to the -53 m level (a fixed line leads to this decompression station), was unsuccessful. Another attempt was being made this afternoon to the -87 m low spot. Special diving teams with experience in difficult dives, one from Great Britain (Rick Staunton, John Volanthen, and maybe one more) and one from Switzerland (Pedro, André, Hans, Gigi), are flying to France this evening to help with the rescue tomorrow morning.

There is hope that Eric is waiting in an air bell or between two sumps. Hang in there, Eric.

Yvonne Droms

Update Tuesday Oct 5, 10 AM ET:

Reconnaissance divers who had gone to 450 meters from the entrance yesterday returned without having found Eric.

The British and Swiss rescue divers arrived on site early this morning. Two British divers will enter the cave around 3 pm French time (9 am US ET) and go to the end of known exploration at 1040 m. They are taking along first aid, food, and heat packs, and are expected to return within 5 to 7 hours. A second team of Swiss cave divers is ready to go in if needed.

We’ll know more around 10 pm (4 pm US ET).

Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 5, 2010 9:13 am

Thank you to Maxime de Gianpietro for the following pictures and map:

Pictures of Dragonniere de Gaud:
http://picasaweb.google.fr/101858675853381243200

Map of Dragonniere de Gaud:
http://ssf.ffspeleo.fr/images/stories/s ... 2010-2.jpg

Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby NZcaver » Oct 5, 2010 10:32 am

Solo??
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby paul » Oct 5, 2010 11:44 am

NZcaver wrote:Solo??


Not *that* rare: depending on the cave and conditions.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 6, 2010 9:12 am

The British rescue dive team returned during the night. They found the passage obstructed by a gravel landslide at 780 meters from the entrance. Eric’s emergency scooter was found wedged in the obstruction, facing the exit. Various clues led to the assumption that Eric had tried but was unable to cross the obstacle, then left his scooter to indicate that he was alive and had returned to a spot out of the water where he could take refuge and wait for rescue.

It does not look possible to clear the landslide, but a second check by a Swiss team will be made on Thursday, after the water has had a chance to clear up.

Wednesday morning: A suspected upper entrance on the plateau (an impassable vertical shaft) is now being dug on by civil engineering crews with heavy equipment to try to gain access to the upstream part of the cave. Meanwhile, a team of cavers is exploring in a nearby cave, where there is a lead with air at the base of a climb that has never been checked and which might lead to a connection with Dragonniere.

There is good hope!

-Yvonne Droms
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Oct 6, 2010 9:45 am

Wow. Diver trapped behind landslide, only hope of rescue is through undiscovered passages. Intense stuff, hope it all works out.

My thought on him being solo is that while it must be an excrutiating wait for him, at least there is only one trapped caver and not two.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby jharman2 » Oct 6, 2010 1:14 pm

What an amazing and scary story! Please keep the updates coming Vonny!
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 6, 2010 3:46 pm

Situation at 6 pm French time noon US ET, or about 4.5 hours ago), from a live interview on France Inter evening radio news with the technical adviser of the French rescue organization Speleo Secours: A big back hoe dug open a trench that allowed access to a fissure where cavers are now trying to progress downwards. The narrow fissure is filled with rocks that need to be removed. The diggers are about 14 meters down in the fissure, and there is another 70 meters down to the level of the cave passage. The hope is that this fissure will connect with (or lead to) the air-filled passage where Eric is hopefully waiting.

Tomorrow morning, a team of divers will return to the spot where Eric’s emergency scooter was found (780 meters from the entrance) to see if perhaps a way can be found up and over the collapse.

A picture of the machine that dug in the vineyard up on the plateau:
http://www.speleo-secours-francais.com/ ... 646_90.jpg

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Chads93GT » Oct 6, 2010 7:31 pm

my God............ I hope he makes it. If he can pull through I bet he gets a movie deal. Hope he hangs through.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Harald Franzen » Oct 7, 2010 7:32 am

I found this topic because I was Googling for items on the emergency underway.
Short introduction -as I have just registered here and this is my first post: I am the owner of a cave diving center in the Lot (France), about 2 hours drive from the Ardeche where the Dragonnière is; hence the interest.

Reading the postings, I saw that Yvonne was doing an excellent job keeping you up to date. I have only a few things to add.

The current conditions inside the cave are very very limited. The viz is around 20-30 centimeters (so less than a foot). It is thought impossible to go in and clear the blockage at 780 meters, behind which Eric is suspected (or maybe hoped) to wait. Hence the operation from above. They are 99.9 percent sure there is a fissure that leads to the cave beyond that 780 meter blockage and that's why they have been excavating the sand and rocks blocking that fissure from above. The goal is to free up the fissure and descend into it. However, there is no guarantee that this will lead straight down towards the point where Eric is believed to be waiting.

SSF (Spéléo Sécours Francais - The French Spéléo Rescue) makes two assumptions at this time (which are relevant to the entire operation):
a) finding Erics' scooter was a signal from him to any divers searching for him: "I am here, I am alive; I just can't get out"
b) if a is correct, they presume his survivability to be in the range of 2 to 3 weeks (he has water available, but he is also in an exposed environment - water temp will be something like 15*C).

Let's hope for the best!

Cheers,


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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby burrencrawler » Oct 7, 2010 7:38 am

Particularly bad taste that remark about the movie deal.... must I say more ?
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Squirrel Girl » Oct 7, 2010 8:08 am

burrencrawler wrote:Particularly bad taste that remark about the movie deal.... must I say more ?


I read that remark as a won't-it-be-great-when-he-makes-it-out-and-gets-something-positive-from-a-bad-experience kind of remark. Maybe not the way you took it?

Thanks to all the helpers in trying to succeed at a rescue!!!
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Oct 7, 2010 10:00 am

Latest update from Speleo Secours (at 1 pm French time)

Two Swiss rescue divers went in just before noon French time, tasked with precisely analyzing the collapsed passage in the sump and what possibilities exist to get through. The silt in the water is not clearing and visibility is extremely bad, especially near the collapse.

On the surface, the unstable sides of the big hole were stabilized, a winch was set up to remove rubble from the dig, and a team of French cave rescuers are hard at work digging downwards in the fissure, hoping to find a pit that will allow them to connect with Dragonniere.

Other French Speleo Secours cavers are checking out nearby caves for possible leads.

By mid-afternoon French time, we should have fresh news from the rescue divers. Later today, depending on the results of the dive, a briefing will be held in order to select the best course of action.

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby Chads93GT » Oct 7, 2010 11:20 am

Squirrel Girl wrote:
burrencrawler wrote:Particularly bad taste that remark about the movie deal.... must I say more ?


I read that remark as a won't-it-be-great-when-he-makes-it-out-and-gets-something-positive-from-a-bad-experience kind of remark. Maybe not the way you took it?

Thanks to all the helpers in trying to succeed at a rescue!!!


Yeah, wasn't trying to offend. Just saying that if he can pull through and make it through this he is going to have one hell of a story to tell. Hopefully the surface plan pans out and they are able to pull him out of there. Are rock slides/collapses in cave diving a frequent occurance or is this a fluke chance, much like a breakdown collapse in a regular cave?
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby burrencrawler » Oct 7, 2010 11:33 am

Hi Chad,
All is well, I have never heard of collapses in submerged caves before, I'd say it's more unusual as gravity is less severe there no? Unless its from squeezing through and disturbing them, either way I really hope that poor dude is somewhere 'dry'. Quentin
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