Ranger Talks About Cave Rescue

Sunday, March 23rd 2008, 6:49 pm
By: News On 6

One of the rescuers who helped save three local teenagers from a Tennessee cave is speaking out.  A ranger with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park says the three boys were ill-equipped for a cave expedition. 

The News On 6's Jeffrey Smith reports park ranger Bob Miller was at the scene Friday night, assisting the rescue of three young men from the bottom of a 150 foot cave.  The rescue took four hours. But he says he's just thankful everyone is safe.

After being stuck underground for almost 24 hours, suffering from hypothermia and hunger, the three local boys had to be rescued from a spring break cave exploration in Townsend, Tennessee.

"They're pretty hypothermic, they were really soaked and wet," said Miller.

Miller is a big reason why those boys are still alive today.

"They showed up at the trailhead wet and dirty and cold and wearing borrowed clothes from the cave rescuers. Kind of embarrassed because of all the attention, but they were OK," said Miller.

It all started Thursday night when 17-year-old Jake Layman of Claremore, 17-year-old Dustin Blakesley of Owasso, and 20-year-old Chris Smith of Owasso were in Tennessee visiting Blakesley's older brother, Gary.

Close to midnight, they decided to go cave hunting at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. They ended up more than 150 feet straight down.

"In the cave whenever you're crawling you're basically crawling through the same icy water. And then they had to descend these three drops, and all three of the drops in the cave are waterfalls," said Miller.

It took more than four hours to pull the boys up from the cavern.

"They didn't realize they didn't have any problems until they came around to come back up and they realized they were so cold and their hands were so tired and so weak from being exhausted they couldn't climb the rope," said Miller. "They seemed like a nice bunch of kids that just got carried away."

Miller says Gary Blakesley will be issued a court citation for not having a permit to be in the caves. The other boys were just given stern lectures and kept overnight for observation.

Find more stories on NewsOn6.com's Local News page.

Related Story:

3/21/08 - Four Missing Cavers Rescued