Rescue Operation Safely Retrieves American Caver Stranded for 12 Days in Turkish Cave

40-year-old Mark Dickey of New Jersey was successfully extracted from the Morca Cave in the Taurus Mountains around 12:37 am local time on September 13th.

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Mark Dickey, aged 40, had been stuck below ground in the Turkish cave since falling ill on August 31st.

After spending 12 harrowing days trapped deep inside a cave in Turkey, an American caver has finally been rescued. 40-year-old Mark Dickey of New Jersey was successfully extracted from the Morca Cave in the Taurus Mountains around 12:37 am local time on September 13th.

In the depths of Morca cave near Anamur in southern Turkey, on Saturday, September 9, 2023, a dedicated medical team provides essential care to American caver Mark Dickey, 40, as captured by Marton Kovacs of the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service in this poignant image via AP.

Dickey became stuck over 3,400 feet underground on August 31st when he fell ill while exploring the extensive cave system. What ensued was a complex international rescue operation spanning nearly two weeks to bring the accomplished caver back to the surface alive.

“It is amazing to be above ground again,” Dickey told reporters after the rescue, saying he was trapped much longer than expected. He remains hospitalized in intensive care for further examination, but is in stable condition after the ordeal.

Dramatic Video Shows Stretcher Emerging

Video captured the dramatic moment Dickey was carried out of the cave entrance on a stretcher after the marathon rescue effort. Underground footage also showed him resting enroute as teams painstakingly maneuvered the stretcher through the winding cave’s narrow passages.

At the entrance of Morca Cave in Mersin province, southern Turkey, on September 10, 2023, a dedicated team of rescuers is diligently engaged in an operation to reach American caver Mark Dickey. He fell ill and became trapped approximately 3,280 feet underground near Anamur. Image by - Umit Bektas/Reuters

The successful extraction followed days of arduous preparation by Turkish teams to create a safe evacuation route. Once Dickey’s condition stabilized enough for transport, rescuers carried him nearly a mile to the surface through technically challenging terrain.

Complex Rescue Coordinated by International Teams

Dickey’s rescue involved coordination between dozens of volunteers, cave specialists, and government authorities from both Turkey and abroad.

The New Jersey Initial Response Team Dickey leads thanked the Turkish government for resources that made his extraction possible. European and Hungarian cave rescue associations also provided crucial assistance.

Rescuers credited cutting-edge medical interventions with saving Dickey’s life after his health took a sudden turn for the worse. He received IV fluids, medication, and a blood transfusion underground to stabilize him before evacuation.

Family Expresses Relief: "We Were Aware He Desperately Needed Assistance"

In a statement, Dickey’s parents voiced tremendous relief at their son's recovery after an unimaginably difficult 12 days.

“The fact that our son Mark has been moved out of Morca Cave in stable condition is indescribably relieving and fills us with incredible joy,” they said. “We are so very thankful and grateful that the support he needed was given to him.”

His parents said they knew he was in a dire situation, and are thankful qualified rescuers were able to reach him in time. Their statement expressed heartfelt gratitude to all involved in ensuring his survival.

American Caver Suddenly Fell Ill While Exploring Remote Cave

Dickey, an experienced caver, was assisting with exploration in Turkey’s massive Morca Cave system when he became seriously ill on August 31st.

During the September 10, 2023 rescue mission to reach American caver Mark Dickey near Anamur, southern Turkey, Giuseppe Conti (ECRA Technical Commission Chair) and Bulent Genc (Head of Turkey's Caving Federation) collaborate on mapping. Image by - Umit Bektas/Reuters

The cave stretches over 3.5 miles into the Taurus Mountains. Dickey was 3,400 feet below the surface when he started experiencing severe intestinal issues that quickly progressed to life-threatening internal bleeding and vomiting.

Unable to exit under his own power, Dickey’s situation quickly became a race against time for rescuers to reach and evacuate him safely.

Complex Factors Create Hazards in Cave Rescues

Caves present unique dangers for injured or ill individuals. The remote enclosed environments often lack cell service and inhibit communication.

Narrow, twisting passages full of rocks and drops can make stretched evacuations extremely difficult, even for experienced cavers.Specialized equipment like rope rigging, divers, and cave rescue training are required to extract injured people safely through treacherous underground terrain.

Dickey’s worsening medical condition thousands of feet underground created the urgency around evacuating him. Delaying could have proven fatal.

Rescue Delayed by Heavy Rainfall Flooding the Cave

While rescue teams mobilized quickly, plans to bring Dickey to the surface were temporarily put on hold due to heavy rainfall flooding the cave.

Attempting an evacuation through floodwaters that could rise rapidly would have endangered both Dickey and his rescuers. For days, crews were forced to wait for water levels to recede before finally beginning the extraction.

329 Rescuers Work to Bring Caver to Safety

Turkish officials said 329 people worked on the massive rescue operation. Crews focused on clearing blockages and creating an unobstructed path to carry Dickey out.

Medics administered urgent treatment to get his condition stable enough for transport. Teams positioned ropes and safety lines to hoist the stretcher through the cave’s narrows corridors and over drops without jostling Dickey.

Multiple cave rescue associations from Turkey and Europe provided specialized equipment and expert guidance on the precarious subsurface evacuation.

American Caver: “I'm Not Going to Live”

After more than a week trapped growing sicker, Dickey said he began to lose hope. “I reached a point where I said, ‘I’m not going to live,’” he recalled after being rescued.

Stuck injured and alone in a vast underground maze far from help, Dickey’s dire predicament highlights the mental challenges accompanying physical survival in an extreme environment.

Though finally recovered safely, his account speaks to the emotional trauma that often accompanies near-death situations. Counseling may help process the psychological impacts of his harrowing experience.

Caving Community Cheers Successful Rescue of One of Their Own

For the tight-knit caving community, saving one of their own summoned help from across continents. The collective effort reflected a shared ethos of never leaving an injured caver behind if there’s any chance of rescue.

Many credit the rescue’s success to the specialized cave rescue associations whose expertise made the difference in bringing Dickey home. There is immense relief and celebration among cavers worldwide to have him recovered safely.

Looking Ahead to Dickey’s Recovery

Now receiving care in a Turkish hospital, Dickey is on the long road to recovering from his physical ailments and regaining strength after the lengthy entrapment. He is in stable condition but likely has a ways to go healing before returning home to the US.

For now, Mark Dickey’s loved ones and caving peers are simply relieved and overjoyed at his improbable rescue. What seemed an impossible situation was made possible through perseverance, teamwork and the refusal to give up hope.

The dramatic mission proved that with proper training, equipment and determination, even the most remote victims can be delivered from danger. For cavers, Dickey’s survival is an inspirational reminder to press on when lives are on the line.


Summarized from the original article by Kevin Shalvey, Julia Jacobo, and Morgan Winsor for abcnews.go.com

United StatesMark DickeyMorca Cave in the Taurus MountainsTurkish CaveTeam DickeyTurkeyExplorerExpedition went WrongExpeditionMountain ExpeditionCave ExpeditionRescue Operation

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