September 23, 2017

"Student survives three days in a cave after college spelunking group leaves him behind."

"The Indiana University student [Lukas Cavar (luckless caver?)] had been exploring Sullivan Cave, about 10 miles south of his school in Bloomington, Ind., on Sunday with other members of the Caving Club, a campus extracurricular group that promotes 'responsible caving practices with opportunities to visit caves around the area.' Over several hours, Cavar got separated from the group — and then left behind in the cave after the other the club members exited and padlocked the entrance gate.... On Sunday, after he realized he had been forgotten by the group, Cavar spent hours screaming out of the cave’s locked entrance — about a 1½-by-3-foot hole in the ground, surrounded by concrete with metal bars welded into place — in the hopes that someone would hear him from a nearby road. No one did.... He used the energy bar wrappers to collect moisture and the water bottles to collect rainfall and puddled cave water. Cavar also licked the cave’s damp walls to quench his thirst. Hunger drove him to consider foraging for cave crickets, although he didn’t eat any of the small insects.... His friends noticed that he missed physics class Monday, which was unlike him, they said. When he didn’t show up Tuesday and never went to work that day, they knew something was wrong..... When Norrell and other friends couldn’t find Cavar around campus, they contacted the Caving Club, and that’s when they realized that he might still be in the cave...."

WaPo reports.

Glad he survived, but what an incredible screwup! How does something like that happen? How many people were in the group? How do you separate yourself from the group and not remain aware that they are leaving a place that has a 1½-by-3-foot exit hole with a lockable gate on it? How does the group not take care to count that everyone's out before locking the gate? What kind of kind of "caving club" is this? And how sad to have friends who not only lock you in a cave but only notice your absence when you fail to show up for physics class and only think of trying to help you after you miss that class twice.

105 comments:

Original Mike said...

"How does something like that happen?"

Counting is no longer a college prerequisite.

Anonymous said...

The gate should be lockable only to the outside -- it should always open from the inside.

Otto said...

[Lukas Cavar (luckless caver?) - cute.

Ralph L said...

How big is the Club? He must not have had friends in it.

I was locked in the library with no lights once. Pretty scary getting to the front desk to dial 911, and there was no real danger but falling.

mockturtle said...

Don't they count noses any more?

JAORE said...

One would think a simple head count would fall under "responsible caving practices".

rcocean said...

Wonder what lukas will say at the next Club meeting?

Thanks for all the bugs?

Ann Althouse said...

"The gate should be lockable only to the outside -- it should always open from the inside."

But if a barred gate is openable from the inside, you'd be able to reach in from the outside and open it.

rcocean said...

Most gates are locked and don't swing open -either way. This isn't someone's private residence, its a a gate to a cave.

Ann Althouse said...

If I were using this incident as inspiration for a work of fiction, I'd have there be a lot more to this story.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

Give the kids and their college sponsors a break;;they are college students most operating on borrowed money, no one told them they have to learn to count...math is HARD...

rhhardin said...

Cave is beware (imperative mood) in Latin.

Michael K said...

There was a story about 20 years ago about a father that took a group of young girls up to the mountains around Los Angeles to play in the snow. When they went home, one girl was left behind. She realized she was left behind and, instead of waiting, she began to go down the hill toward the lights she could see. She froze to death,

Ann Althouse said...

I think this is a photograph of the entrance with the gate (from a collection of photographs of Sullivan Cave).

If you entered through a hole like that and know about that gate, wouldn't you be hyper-conscious of getting back out?

Have you ever been somewhere with other people and then at some point realized you were all alone and they'd all left? That happened to me as a young child, when I was about 5. I'd gone upstairs in the house next door to my grandparents' house with the little girl who lived there. She was showing me her doll house and I found it fascinating. At some point, I looked around and the girl was gone, and I was alone in the upstairs room of a house I didn't know. I wanted to get out quickly and as I got to the top of the stairs, the girl's older brother appeared at the bottom, between me and the front door. For some crazy reason, the boy yelled at me (as if he were outraged): "What are you doing here?! My father's going to sue you!" I guess that was his idea of a joke, but it absolutely terrified me.

tcrosse said...

If I were using this incident as inspiration for a work of fiction, I'd have there be a lot more to this story.

Maybe Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, Injun Joe, and Huckleberry Finn, for starters.

Rob said...

Hell, I knew people who survived three years in law school without anyone knowing they were there.

Rohan said...

The simplest explanation is that there were 2 sub-groups. One group left early, and the other group left later. Each group thought this guy was with the other group. That's why counting would have failed. It's also why the Caving Club would realize he was locked inside the cave, the two groups would have talked to each other and realized he wasn't with either.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Maybe they should adopt the buddy system, or is that to triggering?

tim in vermont said...

Physics class is the tell. Lack of social skills can get you killed.

Biff said...

I'm assuming there weren't any Eagle Scouts on the trip.

campy said...

I'll bet he was left on purpose.

Original Mike said...

This is why miners have check tags.

tim maguire said...

Buddy system? Everything in here is understandable except the part about them not realizing he was missing as they piled into their cars to go home. Who did he arrive with?

As others have wondered, wouldn't a periodic head count be part of "responsible caving practices"?

sodal ye said...

Better than the scuba diving couple who were left out at sea by the dive boat, never to be seen again, probably eaten by sharks.

sodal ye said...

I've been in many caves, but the scariest was exploring the narrow flooded tunnels deep underneath Fremantle prison in Australia.

Big Mike said...

If I were using this incident as inspiration for a work of fiction, I'd have there be a lot more to this story.

It's sort of been done. The film "Open Water" was based on a couple, the Lonergans, that had gone out on a scuba diving excursion to the Great Barrier Reef and were left behind when the crew miscounted the number of people who had gotten back on board when it was time to return.

grackle said...

How does the group not take care to count that everyone's out before locking the gate?

Stupidity. Caving is a dangerous sport. There are some simple rules to follow when caving. Ignore those rules at your peril.

BTW, caving is a sport in which women can participate on a par with men. Some of the best cavers I ever knew were women.

Also, cavers usually avoid the “spelunker” word. “Caver” is the preferred appellation.

sodal ye said...

Here is the scariest dive ever made. Dave Shaw, diving Bushman's Hole in Africa, attempting a body retrieval at 890 feet depth. He filmed it. Turned out to be a snuff flick

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mF4iFJ-G74o

sodal ye said...

Sorry, cave dive.

rcocean said...

In the future, I'd suggest a before and after picture.

And that's entrance is rather small. i enjoyed Carlsbad and "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" (James Mason Version) - but on the whole "Caving" strikes me as somewhat dangerous and not worth the risk.

When all is said and done, its a hole in the ground.

But that's me. I also don't see the thrill in zooming down a ski slope at 50 MPH trying to avoid other skiers and trees. But millions disagree.

Jonathan Graehl said...

gates that should open from the inside (extra key?)

rcocean said...

Churchill said that nothing was more thrilling than being shot at - without result.

But I disagree. Sorry, I don't find risking my life in dangerous sports "thrilling" I find it boring and stressful. I've done it all, hang-gliding, ski-ing, rock climbing, parachuting, & bungee jumping. All with someone who liked doing it. My only thought was "when is this going to end" and "I'd better not do X, or I'll get killed".

I prefer to risk my life over something that matters.

sodal ye said...

Blogger rcocean said...
Sorry, I don't find risking my life in dangerous sports "thrilling" I find it boring and stressful.
...
There are thrill activities, like bungee jumping, and there are skilled activities that look like thrill sports but are not, like caving or climbing. I've been addicted to skilled adventure sports for 40 years, for a few reasons: being challenged to perform well under stress, the resulting satisfaction, and the feeling of being "alive" in a way nothing else gives me other than great sex.

Bay Area Guy said...

Leave no spelunker behind...

David said...

They probably tried to text him. Bad cell reception when you are trapped in a cave.

David said...

"There are thrill activities, like bungee jumping, and there are skilled activities that look like thrill sports but are not, like caving or climbing. I've been addicted to skilled adventure sports for 40 years, for a few reasons: being challenged to perform well under stress, the resulting satisfaction, and the feeling of being "alive" in a way nothing else gives me other than great sex."

You should have joined the military. There is no orgasm as good as being pinned down by enemy fire, I hear.

David said...

The Caving Club? Isn't that a lefty foreign policy organization?

madAsHell said...

I also don't see the thrill in zooming down a ski slope at 50 MPH trying to avoid other skiers and trees.

I ski when all the 15-year-old idiots are in school, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going any faster than 35mph.

sodal ye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leora said...

When I was a freshman in high school I went with the ski club to a local slope. I got separated from my group when I failed to negotiate an exit off the tow line and ended up on the advanced slope. I made my way very slowly back down to the ski lodge, walking part of the way while carrying my skis. It was dark by the time I got there. Fortunately the school bus hadn't left yet. It was my last time skiing.

I actually saw the instructor count us as we went up, but he apparently counted wrong when the group started down.

madAsHell said...

What happened to the buddy rule? I never ski alone, and I never swim alone.

I'm thinking this guy is a drama queen, or suicidal. He separated from the group, and then was surprised that he was left behind???

He was experimenting with the how-much-do-they-like-me parameter, or maybe wanted to have a potential boyfriend come to his rescue. The guy is right up there with Bowie Bergdahl.

Hari said...

If this had happened to a woman, all the men would have been expelled.

rcocean said...

"He was experimenting with the how-much-do-they-like-me parameter, or maybe wanted to have a potential boyfriend come to his rescue. The guy is right up there with Bowie Bergdahl."

You're quite cynical - "Mad as Hell".

I like that. The whole thing is suspicious isn't it? But sometimes truth isn't just 'stranger then fiction' - its incredibly stupid.

But interesting point....

Rob McLean said...

If this had happened to a woman, all the men would have been expelled.

They might be anyway, just on general principle.

walter said...

"responsible caving practices "
The cave suffered no damage...

walter said...

"sport"?

whitney said...

The caving Club claimed it was a "failure of leadership". Do they mean that the leader failed or there was no leadership?

Rabel said...

He had his cellphone and gated access to the surface but couldn't get a signal even though he was only 10 miles south of Bloomington.

Must have been like living in the middle ages over there in deepest, darkest Indiana. I can see why you left.

Mountain Maven said...

Single people.

Freeman Hunt said...

Why were club members allowed to go off alone? Didn't think being alone was supposed to be part of caving.

Darrell said...

My father's going to sue you!

And that's the moment Althouse decide on Law.

Bad Lieutenant said...


The gate should be lockable only to the outside -- it should always open from the inside.

Spoken like a true CHUD. I'll take my cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers locked, thank you.

Rae said...

Taking a head count seems like such a fundamental caving safety practice that it makes me wonder what the full story is.

And yet, otherwise responsible people leave babies in the back of the car all the time.

Everybody involved is lucky he didn't end up dead.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Why would anyone want to climb down a gated hole? That's like asking to be screwed up the bupkis.

Gabriel said...

Injun Joe died because they sealed up the cave after Tom and Becky got lost.

MaxedOutMama said...

Whitney - they mean Trump should not have let this happen. They're college students, after all. They also have a strong suspicion that the GOP leadership in Congress somehow was involved.

JAORE said...

"If I were using this incident as inspiration for a work of fiction, I'd have there be a lot more to this story."

Everyone was looking forward to a great day in the cave until they noticed that Lukas had on a MAGA hat.

Ambrose said...

Talk about "safe spaces"

Rabel said...

Something smells fishy. It could be this story, it could be Ritmo. It could be both.

Guildofcannonballs said...

"If you entered through a hole like that and know about that gate, wouldn't you be hyper-conscious of getting back out?"

Young men seem more conscious hyperly of getting in... This point supercedes all others for our very existences. Where would we be without the ancestors we share who ate the poison root we knew we couldn't survive famine with? Sure give credit to those who discovered what we could survive famine and locusts with, but let's not forget those who tragically taught those whom we celebrate.

Of course, maybe unlike y'all?, I myself started out younger than I am now, without long-term reasoning skills and a learned hatred of people because of their lack of trustworthiness when mortal events, including despair if I correctly recall what Buckley labeled sin, are arisen. Not in Texas or Puerto Rico though praise God.

I should have listened a little harder to Praeger when he talked about love of individuals and contempt for humanity's evil in general.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

Keep a horn/whistle?! By the gate

Chris White said...

Common core counting?

Scott M said...

Hey, it happens. Remember when that family in Chicago left their kid at home over Christmas?

Jim S. said...

When my mother was a child the family went on a drive to the beach. She was the middle of five children. After about an hour they realized they had left my mom behind. When they got back to the house they found her, crying, in the attic.

The closest thing like that that happened to me was when I was in an orthodontist's waiting room, reading a magazine, waiting for them to call my name. I was engrossed in what I was reading, so maybe they called me and I didn't hear them. Anyway, at some point I looked up and saw I was the only person in the waiting room. I went to the front desk and no one was there. I wandered back into the rooms. Empty. Apparently everyone had gone to lunch. Fortunately for me they hadn't locked me in, so I left and drove home. But I definitely had a twilight-zone-am-I-the-only-person-left-in-the-world feeling at first.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

There is one simple answer to all Althouse's questions: Hoosiers.

Anonymous said...

This is going to be an ex-caving group after this mess. It's one thing for an individual to forget somebody, it's quite another for a group - especially if an official group on campus - to not have procedures in place to verify headcounts if going caving in a remote place that has only one exit that they intend to lock when done. Nobody should have left until everyone was accounted for, and really there should have been no separation.

Yancey Ward said...

He is a male college student and a likely rapist. Either that or he voted for Trump.

bagoh20 said...

I've never trusted spelunkers, and this doesn't help.

bagoh20 said...

I suspect this is a case of the all too common spelunkicide. It's rampant among the little creepers these days.

rcommal said...

How does something like that happen?

My first thought is: Because they've been raised on reading online opinions/observations such as yours over the past 10-12 years, plus a;-whateveh . And, therefore, no one paid attention, in terms of real life, to a specific guy. Collective experience that leaves behind a specific person.

rcommal said...

@bagoh

If only the creepy back in the aughts would take a bit of responsibility, and that includes you, my friend, as well as Althouse and Meade + etc. etc. etc.

Breezy said...

Do spelunkers not have backpacks or other things they leave in the van while they spelunk? I would think there'd have been some clue while exiting the van that not everyone who had gone, had returned.

Rusty said...

Something tells me that "college spelunking group" is an excuse to go somewhere and get high.

tim in vermont said...

I understand that spelunkers prefer to be called cavers, dirty old men like myself prefer to be called silver foxes.

exhelodrvr1 said...

" And, therefore, no one paid attention, in terms of real life, to a specific guy."

Similar to when a number of elderly people died during that heat wave in France a few years ago.

It's up to the government to do that, isn't it?

Tank said...

Shouldn't FEMA have been on the scene ahead of time, and doing the head count at the mouth of the tunnel. It's clearly the fault of Donald J. Trump. Impeach I say !

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I went spelunking a few times in college. Nothing that I though of as dangerous at the time. Thinking back now, there was one in which I was probably pretty close to hypothermia, thanks to 3' high passages with 2' of water. This cave required ~25' vertical climb to get out, and I was cold enough that I had to rely on a rope for part of the climb. If the group had left and taken the rope, I likely would have died there, almost certainly in less than 24 hrs.

MadisonMan said...

I went into Mammoth Caves in KY once. All I could think was "If there's a small Earthquake right not I will die"

I don't do well in caves.

I'm glad the kid survived. I suspect the Caving Club isn't going to survive this.

Owen said...

Darrell: "My father's going to sue you!

And that's the moment Althouse decide on Law.

9/23/17, 8:08 PM"

Great minds. The very thought when I read the Professor's comment. She realized early on that skill in the law will help you get out of a tight spot.

gspencer said...

"How does the group not take care to count that everyone's out before locking the gate?"

Something to do with a Me Society, n'est pas?

There's fault on both sides. Not only should a Buddy System been established, he should have stayed with his buddy/group.

MadisonMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Winkleheimer said...

But... these are adults, not pre-schoolers. Do they all really need to "count off" just because someone stupid was on the trip with them that day?

Actually, yes. That's SOP for this kind of thing. Back in my Scuba Diving days we would ensure everyone was back on the boat before it pulled up anchor and moved. Somebody is appointed to be the Dive Master and they are responsible for that. And the joke about having a dive buddy was that you didn't need to swim faster than a shark, just faster than your dive buddy. The very first day of Scuba School it was stressed to never dive alone. Have a dive buddy and stay together.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Your comparable isn't really a comparable.

Yeah, it is. Hell, when I was in the Army and out in the field it was SOP to make sure to know where your people were at all times and there is a buddy system. And I'm talking training, in situations far less dangerous than caving. Maybe the guy was a dumbass. That doesn't excuse leaving him behind. Somebody was supposed to be in charge and one of that person's duties was ensuring that everyone that went into that cave came back out.

Also, caving is dangerous. If you are 800 feet underground and take a fall and break your leg, you are in a world of hurt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhCOuGdxJbo

Khesanh 0802 said...

Who needs enemies when you have these guys as your friends?

Laslo Spatula said...

'Spelunking' is slang for anal sex.

Thus explaining the importance of the Buddy System.

I am Laslo.

Portlandmermaid said...

The movie Open Water deals with this. A couple on a scuba diving tour are left behind in, of course, shark-infested waters. The scariest moment was when the woman looked under the surface of what appeared to be calm water and saw sharks circling under her.

It did not end well

Owen said...

Good discussion of buddy system. Without wanting to excuse the inexcusable breakdown (or absence) of basic safety protocol in this case (and I fault both the group and the guy they forgot), I wonder if modern tech could help. Every member of the group must carry a smartphone. The phone has an app that senses and counts the phones of every other member. At the start of the outing, phones are synchronized/paired. An alarm time or condition is set: if any of the listed phones is not found/heard from by time X, every phone displays an overriding Missing Person/Last Known Location message. Maybe with a copy to campus safety or 911.

Hey, if Starbucks will let you order and pay remotely, surely we can figure out something actually useful like this.

In fact I am pretty sure NSA is already doing it, but this version is less creepy.

RAH said...

My brother was in the Outdoor Club in college and they did a cave like this out of state They had to get the key from the sheriff who listed all the members and did a headcount after they came back to return the key . The list was checked So the police does not have to check if anyone was left behind. That was 40 years ago Why was a good process then not followed today? That club is toast.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

This is a story because locked gate. Why all the bloviation?

Laslo Spatula said...

He left the group so as to masturbate in private.

Being in caves compels some men to masturbate.

Or have sex with a cave women, back when.

I am Laslo.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

@owen nominates cell phone is sheriff. Need to think ahead ... How many Bernie Bros in that group?

John Nowak said...

>But... these are adults, not pre-schoolers.

Assuming facts not in evidence. "Adults" would not have left someone behind.

Apparently, he had a buddy, but she didn't tell anyone he was missing.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

If you go out into the woods by yourself, for whatever reason, you should let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back and check in with them when you get back so they can alert the authorities if you don't. People get hurt out in the woods all the time. All it takes is a misstep and you can have an ankle so badly sprained that you cannot walk. A pretty bad situation to be in, especially if you are in an area that has Cougars or Bears.

When I went hunting on the base training areas you had to stop by a checkpoint and sign in and provide info on which training areas you intended to hunt in and on the way out you signed out. This was so the game wardens could check at the end of the day and see if everyone who had gone into the woods had came back out.

Paul said...

How does something like that happen? In the PADI (Scuba) we have a 'Divemaster' who counts noses before the dive and after. They need a 'Cavemaster'!

Ron Winkleheimer said...

you should let someone know

By the way, that person should be someone you are pretty sure doesn't want to see you dead.

Fred Drinkwater said...

On a dive boat the absolute first thing to check and understand is the headcount protocol.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

They had buddy pairs. Prank gone bad?

Paul said...

Oh, and my wife says today's college kids are so selfish and oriented toward their cellphones they don't know what is going on around them. There could be a NK atomic bomb attack and they would be totally unaware.

She suggest the kid find some new friends and get a life.

gspencer said...

Lenny = white
Carl = black
Is Lukas still in the group?

Rob McLean said...

Lukas Cavar (luckless caver?)

He was almost a looked-over cadaver, amiright?

vanderleun said...

"You've got to remember that these are just simple college students. These are people of academia. The common clay of the new university and law schools. You know... morons. "

ALP said...

How this happened is obvious: the minute the group emerged from the cave and resumed cell phone service - each and every person stuck their nose into their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter account to see if they missed anything important while in the cave - changing their focus completely from outward to the digital world. The 3D world of caves ceased to exist at that moment. If there was a designated driver, they probably put down their phone for a second, got behind the wheel, then proceeded to drive and surf at once - no brain energy left to wonder if the entire group was present.

grackle said...

Here is the scariest dive ever made. Dave Shaw, diving Bushman's Hole in Africa, attempting a body retrieval at 890 feet depth. He filmed it. Turned out to be a snuff flick.

Ordinary caving is dangerous. Cave diving is super dangerous. Invisible currents, too strong to fight, can whisk divers away to deadly cul-de-sacs. Think of rapids except the rapids are inside a tunnel and completely fill the tunnel.

What happened to the buddy rule? I never ski alone, and I never swim alone.

There should be at least three people inside the cave: One to stay and attend to the injured, one to go for help topside. There should also be someone topside to go for help should all three in the cave fail to return.

Freeman Hunt said...

I went caving with some acquaintances in high school, and they were rightly obsessive about making sure the group was intact at all times.

madAsHell said...

You're quite cynical - "Mad as Hell"

I've done a lot of dumb things, and thank you.