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A Texas woman fell in an Arkansas cave last week, suffering multiple injuries, including a broken arm.

Twenty-six hours later, she was rescued from the cave.

That was faster than expected, said Newton County Sheriff Glenn Wheeler.

Amanda Comer, 28, of Austin, was about 4,000 feet into the cave and beyond some difficult obstacles when she fell about 20 feet, according to a news release from Wheeler.

Wheeler said Comer fell around 6 p.m. Dec. 30 while exploring the cave on private property with a group of nine other cavers.

"Some members of the group made the arduous trip out to summon help, while the rest of the group stayed behind with Comer," Wheeler wrote.

A call went out, and people with cave rescue experience converged on the cave in northern Newton County. Once there, it took them four hours to get to Comer and 12 hours to bring her out, mainly pulling her by harness and rope, one of the rescuers said.

"Immediately, you're met with about 700 feet of belly crawl, and that's just to get you into the cave," he said.

The caver, who said he assisted in the rescue, requested anonymity.

He said some of the passages in the cave are only about a foot wide. The first four rescuers went into the cave about 1 a.m. Dec. 31, the caver said, and a secondary team of four rescuers entered the cave at 3:30 a.m.

A medical volunteer remained with Comer for the duration of the rescue.

The rescuers and the caver decided a self-assisted rescue was required because a backboard or emergency litter would be too large to fit through the passes in the cave. After Comer's injuries where stabilized for movement, the extraction began about 9 a.m. Monday.

On the surface, additional rescue cavers and responders had arrived and began running communication lines and relieved the initial response team.

"It was just a successful rescue operation done by cavers who had some experience in rescue operations," the caver said. "Cavers were able to rally, coordinate and address the situation without having to reach out to emergency response personnel."

Wheeler said the cave was a particularly difficult and technically challenging one, making the rescue difficult.

"The difficulty of the particular cave was such that even some local cave rescue trained personnel decided they would not be effective and the process began of bringing in very specialized teams from out of state," according to a release. "In addition, others in the caving community that had cave rescue skills responded and began the rescue process."

"What really happened, was the caving community came together to rescue one of their own," Wheeler said. "We arrived to help manage the mission and to help gather resources, but we let the experts actually effect the rescue."

Wheeler said the rescue went smoothly.

"Cave rescues are, by nature, very slow processes," he said. "Major cave rescues often last for days, and this one had potential to last a lot longer than it did. But, some very experienced folks that knew what they were doing were in the cave with Amanda and made the process go much quicker than we thought it might."

Comer, and the rest of the group, were experienced cavers, Wheeler said.

"This wasn't a group of inexperienced 'flashlight cavers' that didn't know what they were doing," Wheeler said. "Amanda just slipped in a bad location."

When Comer finally emerged from the cave, she walked to the waiting ambulance, Wheeler said. Once there, she refused treatment and was transported by private vehicle to a hospital.

"She was one tough young lady," the sheriff said.

Comer didn't return a call seeking comment, but she thanked her rescuers on Facebook.

"Thank you guys SO MUCH for helping me out of that cave," she wrote. "As weird as this sounds, it actually was kind of an enjoyable rescue ... Your motivation and great attitude is what got me moving so quickly. Did dislocate my rotator cuff, shattered the bone connected to it, and broke a pinky. Hurt like hell but alive and well because of y'all. Thanks again."

State Desk on 01/06/2019

Print Headline: 26 hours after fall, woman rescued from Arkansas cave

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