Video offers glimpse into Robber Baron cave HS student got stuck in

Some residents didn't know about Robber Baron Cave until after dramatic rescue

By Japhanie Gray - Reporter

A high school student is safe after spending 10 hours stuck inside the Robber Baron Cave Thursday into early Friday morning.

The San Antonio Fire Department was able to free her, but not without facing some challenges.

The slideshow below shows up close photos of the dramatic rescue.

“It was a long, drawn-out and slow process, but it helped that our guys were familiar with the cave,” said Joe Arrington, public information officer for the fire department.

Arrington said the department conducts extensive trainings every year in the 500 caves located in Bexar County.

“We practice learning different scenarios,” said Arrington. “Everything is situational-based, where we practice a person falling, or practice getting an injured person to safety. The nature of these Mother Nature vs. man kind of things, no two things are going to be alike so you train for hypothetical situations and you try to make it as difficult as you can and hone your skills.”

He said he credits the firefighters knowledge about these instances to the department's relationship with the Texas Cave Management Association.

“It goes without saying, the value of our relationship. We have to be able to perform a rescue like this,” said Arrington.

Before Thursday’s rescue, some residents said they had no idea the Robber Baron Cave even existed.

“I peeped right (at) the edge and I was shocked at the years I have been here and the depth of this hole,” said Ernest Villarreal, a longtime resident of San Antonio. “It is amazing.”

Don Beeler has lived in the home next to the cave for 44 years and he said he has never seen a rescue that was quite like this one.

“Years ago, we would have kids wandering down there after school or on the weekend, and some people would call 911 for help,” said Beeler. “That’s what they did yesterday and the fire department responded in loads. It is just wonderful knowing that we have people dedicated to that profession. And I don't know what we would do without them. She wouldn't be here today if it were not for those firefighters.”

Jon Ranzau, TCMA president, said that the location where the girl got stuck is called the Hole in the Floor, and it is not uncommon for cavegoers to find that area challenging.

“That particular spot drops 5 feet to another level,” said Ranzau. “It has a minor twist in it where it has more of an oval shape than round, which makes it more challenging for people to go through.”

He said it is typically fun for people to figure out how to get through.

“I’ve had people take half an hour to navigate through this passage,” said Ranzau. “It takes an average person less than 30 to 45 seconds to get through. You are basically in a crawling position to where you can choose to go to another passage, which would get you out easily, or can choose the Hole in the Floor.”

Ranzau stressed that no matter the difficulty level of that area, trained volunteers are always there to help when they are needed.

“We do station a trained certified volunteer at that particular area to help people navigate through it so it is always supervised, especially for school and youth group trips,” said Ranzau. 

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