An American climber who spent more than a week trapped in one of the world’s deepest caves has been rescued, officials said.
Mark Dickey, a 40-year-old experienced caver, became seriously ill with stomach bleeding more than 3,000 feet below the Morca cave in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains on September 2. Hundreds of people from the climbing community, including cavers and rescue personnel from several countries rallied to save him.
Early Tuesday, the Speleological Federation of Turkey released a statement confirming Dickey was safely above the surface.
“Mark Dickey is out of the Morca cave,” the federation said in a statement. Dickey was removed from the last exit of the cave at 12:37 a.m. local time.
TRAPPED AMERICAN CAVER MARK DICKEY COULD BE BROUGHT TO SURFACE TODAY OR TOMORROW, TURKISH OFFICIALS SAY
“He is fine and is being tended to by emergency medical workers in the encampment above,” the statement said.
Dickey, of New York, was conducting an expedition to map the Morca cave, the country’s third-deepest cave, when he suffered the health emergency, leaving him unable to leave the cave on his own.
Rescue teams from across Europe and the U.S. rushed to get him out but the natural dangers of the cave and Dickey’s own health made a rescue tricky.
An emergency team as able to initially treat him, but he was ultimately too weak to climb out of the cave, so rescuers carried him with a stretcher.
They made several stops at temporary camps set up along the way before finally reaching the surface early Tuesday.
Dickey told reporters as he was lying on the stretcher that the situation was a “crazy, crazy adventure.”
“It is amazing to be above ground again,” he said, thanking the Turkish government for rescuing him. He also thanked others, including the international caving community, Turkish cavers and Hungarian Cave Rescue.
A Hungarian doctor first treated Dockey after going down the cave on September 3. Doctors and rescuers then took turns caring for him, although the cause of his illness was unclear.
Dickey said Tuesday that he had started to throw up large quantities of blood while in the cave.
TURKISH OFFICIALS LAUNCH RESCUE OF US RESEARCHER TRAPPED IN 3,000-FOOT CAVE
“My consciousness started to get harder to hold on to, and I reached the point where I thought ‘I’m not going to live,'” he said.
The biggest hurdles the rescuers faced in removing him from the cave were the steep vertical sections and navigating through mud and water at low temperatures in the horizontal sections.
Around 190 people from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Turkey aided the rescue, including doctors, paramedics and experienced cavers. Teams comprised of a doctor and three to four other rescuers took turns staying by his side at all times.
The rescue began on Saturday after doctors administered IV fluids and blood, and determined that Dickey could make the trip to the surface.
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Rescuers had to widen some of the cave’s narrow passages, install ropes to pull him up vertical shafts on a stretcher and set up temporary camps before the attempt to exit the cave could begin.
Dickey is a cave researcher and a cave rescuer himself who has participated in many international expeditions. He and several other people on the expedition were mapping the 4,186-foot-deep Morca cave system for the Anatolian Speleology Group Association when he became ill on September 2, but it took until the next morning to alert people above ground.
The head of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, Okay Memis, said at a news conference after the rescue mission that Dickey’s health was “very good.”
The European Cave Rescue Association said many cave rescuers stayed in the cave afterward to remove rope and rescue equipment used during the evacuation effort. The association expressed its “huge gratitude to the many cave rescuers from seven different countries who contributed to the success of this cave rescue operation.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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