SAFD crews who rescued student from cave share details on dramatic ordeal

Lee HS student was stuck in cave for more than nine hours

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter, RJ Marquez - Digital Content Curator

SAN ANTONIO - Members of the San Antonio Fire Department’s Technical Rescue Team spoke to KSAT 12 on Thursday about the recent night they were called into action to save an 18-year-old student who got stuck inside a North Side cave.

The Lee High School student was part of an earth, space and science class on a field trip to the cave at the Robber Baron Preserve.

North East ISD officials said she got stuck as they were going through different crawl spaces on March 8.

The teen became wedged in an area, which was about 350 feet into the cave and about 50 feet below ground.

Lt. Sean Wiatrek was commanding the team inside the cave for the nine-hour-long operation.

Wiatrek said the first thing the team did was make sure the student was mentally and physically OK. 

Once she said she was ready, they started drilling the rock around her. 

“We actually had to reach in and shield her body from our air chisels and chip rock away slowly,” Wiatrek said. “So we were using things like cut-up fire hose, our own gloves, hands.”

The team cut through limestone first, which chipped away fast, but once they hit granite, Wiatrek said they had to bring in different tools and they knew it would take hours to carefully break the rock away.

Wiatrek said crews used their camera phones to take pictures and video, and then physically brought the phones to the top to assess the situation with other commanders.

“You don't have electricity in there. You don't have cell phone service. Your radios don't work. You don't have light in there. Air quality was low initially so we had to set up fans to bring up the oxygen level," Wiatrek said. "Too many people in the cave was actually lowering the oxygen, so we had to focus on how many people were there at one time."

After the rescue, the student was checked out at a hospital. NEISD officials said she didn't appear to have any serious injuries.

Robber-Baron-Cave-Map-2012.pdf by David Ibanez on Scribd

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