Man rescued from Walker County, Ga., cave still in critical condition

Man rescued from Walker County, Ga., cave still in critical condition

May 29th, 2013 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Ellison's Cave features the deepest known cave pit in the continental United States, dropping 586 feet straight down.

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

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The man pulled Monday from Ellison's Cave in Walker County, Ga., by scores of specially trained rescuers remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday afternoon.

Dwight Kempf suffered a skull fracture and a broken femur after falling in the cave inside Pigeon Mountain near LaFayette, Ga., Sunday afternoon, his wife, Jill Kempf, said in a statement. An 80-person rescue team hauled Dwight Kempf out of the cave about 21 hours after the 30-foot fall.

"We are extremely grateful for all of the teams, from near and far, who assisted with his rescue," Jill Kempf said. "I especially want to thank the group of cavers who were with my husband taking care of him before medical personnel arrived. This is an experienced group of cavers who consider every possible safety measure and have emergency plans in place before they begin."

This wasn't Dwight Kempf's first journey through Ellison's Cave. According to a Facebook photo gallery, he and five other cavers from Pennsylvania came to Pigeon Mountain in November 2011.

On that visit, the group rappelled down the 586-foot-deep Fantastic Pit and traveled through the rest of the cave in about six hours, according to the Facebook gallery. But that doesn't include the one-mile hike to get to the cave's entrance.

On Sunday, Dwight Kempf had rappelled the Fantastic Pit and was walking on a horizontal passageway when he slipped. Buddy Lane, assistant chief of the Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Service, said Kempf was unconscious for more than 15 minutes.

His wife said the slip was a fluke.

"The staff at Erlanger has worked diligently to care for my husband and ensure he is comfortable," Jill Kempf said. "For now, we are waiting to see how he improves as he recovers from his injuries.

"We ask that you continue to have positive thoughts for Dwight and to respect our privacy as we are devoting our attention to his care and recovery."

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.