BERLIN (TIP): German rescuers on 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 cavern. 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.
“It was one of the most difficult rescue operations in the history of the mountain rescue service,” said Klemens Reindl, who runs the service and who supervised the operation. He added in a statement, that 728 people from five countries took part in the rescue operation. Rescuers placed Westhauser on a fibreglass stretcher and negotiated a treacherous and labyrinth-like network of tunnels and chambers, underground lakes and ice-cold waterfalls.
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 rescue effort, in the mountains near the Austrian border, involved professional cavers, medical personnel and helicopter crews, from Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Croatia. German Red Cross president Rudolf Seiters praised the effort and said that “the conditions under which the helpers had to rescue the seriously injured explorer Westhauserfrom the more than a 1,000m deep cave were extremely difficult.