Wed, Aug 21, 2013 02:29 PM
A fish and wildlife specialist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife
Department, familiar with caving techniques through years of
surveying bats, used his experience to help an injured man out of a
Vermont cave last week. Bat researcher Joel Flewelling was
among the first rescuers able to reach the stranded patient deep
inside Weybridge Cave on Tuesday, Aug. 6. The man had broken his
ankle in a fall and was unable to get out. He sent his friend to
When fire and rescue personnel arrived at the scene, they quickly
realized that the confined quarters and vertical shafts of the cave
required skills beyond their level of training. They contacted
the Vermont Cave Rescue Network, a volunteer group of cavers who
have experience safely navigating Vermont's caves. Flewelling
volunteers with the group and he arrived shortly thereafter.
Flewelling frequently descends deep into Vermont caves during the
winter to do surveys on hibernating bats. He had completed a
formal course on cave rescue just weeks prior to the rescue.
"My supervisor assigned me to take this training because of the
risks associated with descending into caves with other researchers
to do bat surveys," said Flewelling. "I had no idea I would be
putting these skills to use so quickly."
Cave rescues in Vermont are rare - this was only the second full
rescue in the Vermont Cave Rescue Network's 20-year history.
According to Flewelling, a large number of experienced cavers were
out of town for the week attending a convention in Pennsylvania.
There were few people remaining in the area with the experience
necessary to reach the man.
"It was a small crew working down there," said
Flewelling. "We had just the right number of people available
to complete the tasks we needed to do to get him out of
They began their search Tuesday evening and were able to bring the
man to the surface by dawn.
While Flewelling frequently visits caves throughout the state in
his official duties, he had not visited this cave before.
"Weybridge Cave floods every spring, so bats do not hibernate
there in the winter," he said. "Still, everyone there assumed
that because I'm the bat guy, that I know all the caves in
Vermont. I was glad there were other cavers there who were
familiar with the layout of this particular cave."
The man was transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care where he was
treated for his injuries and released.
Photo by Tom Rogers, Vt Fish &Wildlife Dept.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department bat researcher Joel
Flewelling pulls a bat out of a mist net. Flewelling recently
used caving skills he acquired through researching bats to help an
injured man out of a cave in Weybridge, Vt.