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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

American cave expert is rescued in Turkey

Mark Dickey, an American cave expert, had fallen ill more than a week ago while more than 3,000 feet underground during a cave expedition in Turkey.

By Kaly Soto and Safak Timur

An American cave expert who became ill while he was more than 3,000 feet underground in a cave in Turkey, prompting an international rescue effort, was pulled safely from the cave soon after midnight Tuesday morning local time and immediately brought to a medical tent, the Speleological Federation of Turkey announced in a statement.

While he was deep underground, the caver, Mark Dickey, 40, who is himself an expert cave rescuer, suffered gastrointestinal bleeding and lost 3 liters of blood. He was part of an expedition that was exploring the Morca cave, which he entered Aug. 30. After he became ill, a member of his party made the harrowing, hourslong climb to the surface and alerted authorities on Sept. 2.

That brought more than 180 people from eight countries, including Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Poland and the United States, to help rescue him. Many of them camped out in the cave or near its opening in a remote part of the Taurus Mountains in Turkey.

The rescuers began moving Dickey up the cave Saturday afternoon, according to the Speleological Federation of Turkey. The teams had to navigate some narrow passages, said Yaman Ozakin, a spokesperson affiliated with the Turkish cave rescuers.

The rescue teams installed communications systems, blasted open narrow areas so they could move Dickey through on a stretcher and used lines set up inside the cave to carry the stretcher out. At one point, Dickey managed to walk a couple of meters to pass narrow paths, making the rescue effort easier, Ozakin said.

Food, water, medicine and blood were delivered to the mouth of the cave and carried down by other cavers. Dickey received intensive medical care, including blood transfusions, while he was in the cave.

A video shot inside the cave on Sept. 6 showed Dickey wearing a red puffy coat and a headlamp.

“As you can see, I’m up, I’m alert, I’m talking,” Dickey said in the video, “but I’m not healed on the inside yet, so I’m going to need a lot of help to get out of here.” He said that before medical help arrived, he had felt “very close to the edge.”

Dickey lives in New York state, but he leads the New Jersey Initial Response Team based in Sussex County, New Jersey. In a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said that he had been in touch with Turkish officials about Dickey’s rescue.

Rescue workers said that Dickey had been with two people when he fell ill. Other members of the 14-person expedition were elsewhere in the cave system, or waiting to enter, at the time.

The Morca cave, which is mainly made of limestone, is the third deepest in Turkey, with a depth of 4,186 feet, or 1,276 meters, according to the Turkish federation. It is more than 13,000 feet long.

The European Cave Rescue Association said in a statement that Dickey was a highly trained caver and a well-known figure in the international community of speleologists, or cave experts, who had participated in many expeditions around the world.

He is also a senior member of the European Cave Rescue Association’s medical committee and an instructor for cave rescue organizations in the United States, according to the statement.

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