The Thailand Cave Rescue and Other Stories of People Trapped Deep Within the Earth

Playing Thailand Cave Rescue Is Latest in Long History of Mine and Well Mishaps

The drama of a boys’ soccer team trapped in a Thailand cave captured the public’s attention for weeks. When all 12 boys and their coach were successfully rescued earlier this month, the world cheered. 

The saga in Thailand is only the latest in a long series of people trapped deep within the earth.

Inside Edition recently spoke to Emily Mobley, a spelunker who found herself in a similar situation in 1991. Mobley was part of a team exploring the Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico. When a rock foothold broke loose, her leg was crushed, and she was stuck there for four days. Rescuers later carried her out on a stretcher, through narrow openings and up cliff sides, using an intricate system of ropes and pulleys.

In August of 2010, a cave-in trapped 33 Chilean miners hundreds of feet underground and several miles from their mine’s entrance. It took several days before rescuers could locate the miners and determine whether they had survived. Once the miners were found to be safe, it took several weeks to work out a plan to bring them to the surface.

The last Chilean miner was rescued in October of 2010, more than two months after the initial collapse. In the time since their ordeal, the miners have become celebrities of a sort, but some have struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The fame of the Chilean miners is rivaled by that of a single young victim. In 1987, 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell down a well at her aunt’s house in Midland, Texas. A mining engineer helped lead rescue efforts, and after 58 hours, Baby Jessica was saved.

Now 32, Jessica has no memory of the event. But her story has been told and retold countless times, including in a 1989 TV movie entitled "Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure" and in a 2017 People Magazine series.

The Baby Jessica incident was similar to a much publicized incident from decades before. In 1949, a little girl named Kathy Fiscus was playing with her sister and cousin in Southern California when she fell down an abandoned water well. As her parents and rescuers rushed to the scene, the 3-year-old’s cries could still be heard.

Desperate attempts to rescue Fiscus over the next several days brought thousands of spectators to the well site. Television station KTLA broadcast live from the site for over 24 hours — one of the first times television had been used to report on an event.

Rescuers had to tunnel 100 feet into the earth to find Fiscus, but by the time they reached her, it was too late. The little girl was dead. Gently, they retrieved her body. Her grave marker reads, "One Little Girl Who United the World for a Moment."

Two decades before Kathy Fiscus, cave explorer Floyd Collins became trapped in a narrow crawl space in Crystal Cave in 1925. It’s now part of the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

The rescue operation was reportedly breathlessly in the papers and on the radio. But all the media attention in the world couldn't keep Collins from dying of exposure. His body was eventually recovered and put on display in glass-topped coffin at Crystal Cave, where it served as a tourist attraction for decades before he was interred following protests by his family.

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