Student injured in caving accident

Photo by Dean Liao

On Saturday, Feb. 23, a Tech student participating in an Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech (ORGT) wild caving trip was injured as the result of a fall. He suffered several broken bones, but is expected to make a full recovery.

Seventeen ORGT members in two separate groups were exploring Crownover Saltpeter Cave, a wild cave located near Sherwood, Tenn. The group involved in the incident consisted of four trip participants and four trained instructors, including the student involved in the accident. At about 2:40 p.m., the student lost his footing and grip on a nearby surface and suffered an approximately 60 foot change in elevation. The descent occurred as a combination of sliding along a steep slope and a free fall of about 15 feet.

“I am very proud about how the organization responded to the incident…”

Immediately after the fall occurred, one of the other instructors went to assist the student with on-site first-aid, while another exited the cave to call for emergency services. A team consisting of the local fire department, sheriff’s office, paramedics and the cave rescue service arrived and recovered him from the cave. He was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga where he arrived at around 11:45 p.m. Among the cave rescuers were five ORGT members in the area on personal trips who responded to the notice sent out to the organization shortly after the incident.

“I am very proud about how the organization responded to the incident,” said David Knobbe, Assistant Director of ORGT. “They behaved as true professionals.”

The student involved received several broken bones, but according to ORGT, suffered no head, spinal cord or internal injuries. He is expected to make a full recovery and was set to return to campus before the end of this week.

ORGT’s response garnered praise from several administrators including Dr. Bill Schafer, Vice President of Student Affairs; Michael Edwards, Director of the Campus Recreation Center and Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.

“…instead of this organization going backwards because we had an injury, this organization is stronger…”

“Being as close to Outdoor Recreation as I am, I know fully the time and effort that you and others put into training and preparing for situations such as what happen this weekend,” Edwards said in an email to the organization. “It was extremely obvious that when the time came, the entire Outdoor Recreation program was prepared and demonstrated the leadership I have grown to expect from them.”
Despite the accident, Knobbe is confident that the organization can continue to provide students with its current programming.

“Our program responded in a flawless fashion, and I would tell you that instead of this organization going backwards because we had an injury, this organization is stronger because, tested in fire, we have really just demonstrated the professionalism of our students,” Knobbe said.