German trapped in 1,000m deep cave for 11 days rescued

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German rescuers on Thursday (June 19) brought to safety an injured caver, ending his 11-day ordeal and a massive recovery operation deep below the Bavarian Alps.

“The victim has been brought to the surface and is receiving emergency medical care,” said a mountain rescue official after the team reached the mouth of the cave, where a helicopter was waiting.

Explorer Johann Westhauser, 52, suffered serious head injuries in the accident about 1,000m below ground in the Riesending cave complex, Germany’s longest and deepest, AFP reported.

Since then a multi-national team of hundreds of emergency personnel battled around the clock in a complex and costly operation to bring him to the surface.

Rescuers placed Mr Westhauser on a fibreglass stretcher and negotiated a treacherous and labyrinth-like network of tunnels and chambers, underground lakes and ice-cold waterfalls.

Rescuers help transport  Mr Westhauser inside the Riesending cave in Untersberg, in this still image taken from video from a camera mounted on the helmet of a rescuer.

The rescue operation involved rest periods in five bivouac stops, followed by a major final hoist up a 180-metre vertical shaft near the entrance to the cave, officials said.

The operation, high in the mountains near the Austrian border, has involved professional cavers, medical personnel and helicopter crews, from Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Croatia.

Mr Westhauser, a veteran caver, was exploring the cave system with two others when he suffered head and chest injuries in the rock fall on June 8.

Raise alarm

One of his companions made the more than 10-hour trip back to the surface to raise the alarm while the other stayed behind.

The Riesending cave, north of the city of Berchtesgaden, was only discovered in the mid-1990s.

It was not explored and mapped until 2002. It is more than 19 kilometres long and up to 1,150 metres deep.

Source: AFP