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Thailand cave rescue rekindles memory of Arkansas incident

July 6, 2018

FIFTY-SIX, Ark. (AP) — An ongoing rescue effort to get a dozen boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand is rekindling memories of a similar event that occurred in Arkansas more than 50 years ago.

Four spelunkers were trapped for more than a day by floodwaters in Stone County’s Rowland Cave in 1965. The explorers hoped to see whether the cave was connected to Blanchard Springs Cavern. But when they turned around, the entrance was blocked by rising waters, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

“We had no idea if anyone was at the mouth of the cave, but someone was out there and sent us messages in Morse code that we didn’t know,” said Steve Wilson, one of the spelunkers.

Rescuers helped the stranded men scuba dive out. A U.S. Navy diver died of a heart attack soon after taking Wilson to shore, exhausted by hours of swimming.

“I had friends trapped in the cave, so it was one of those surreal moments when I read about the children in Thailand,” said Skip Rutherford, dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. “When I first saw that story, I remembered a similar story in the hills of northern Arkansas. It brought it all back.”

The rescue operation continues for the Thai soccer team, who’ve been trapped for nearly two weeks. A former member of the Thai navy’s SEAL team died early Friday while volunteering on the mission.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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