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Rescue Team Trains For Underground Trouble

It won´t be long until tourists once again flock to Calaveras County for the summer, and Search and Rescue crews are getting in shape to help any visitors whose explorations might lead them into a little trouble.

About 15 members of the Sheriff´s Department´s Search and Rescue team gathered at Moaning Cavern last Thursday evening to re-sharpen their rescue skills.

After rappelling down into the cavern, the rescue workers spent much of the night learning how to get an injured person up and out of the cave through narrow passages and up the cavern´s spiral staircase.

Breanna Benton served as the volunteer victim in this case. She was strapped to a litter and hauled out of the cave, SAR representative Tim Hildabrand said.

A paramedic guided them through their moves as Benton was placed on a backboard and then strapped inside the caged structure that would keep her body steady and protect it from any further injury.

Five crew members took her halfway up the stairs, and were then spelled by another five who got her to the top, and out into the open air.

At some points the litter had to be turned straight up and down to get it up past the top of the stairway.

“It was a real good exercise,” Hildabrand said.

After the drill, members discussed what they learned and how they might improve the process.

Some SAR members also went off on a tour of the cave led by Moaning Cavern representatives Jack Hutchinson and Bruce Brand, learning about other exits and where they´re located.

“It´s quite exhausting,” Hildabrand said.

Cave rescue can be particularly tricky because the thick stone walls block transmissions of their hand-held radios.

“So most of the communication is done by passing the word along to one another,” Hildabrand said.

The sheriff´s coordinator of the program is Capt. Mike Walker. Detective Tim Sturm is the assistant county coordinator. The volunteers team president is Lew Monell.

The team has a number of other practice runs scheduled in the next couple of months, including working with aircraft, swift-water rescue practice in May, and learning about high- and low-angle rope rescues in June.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Craig Koscho. For more Calaveras news, click:calaverasenterprise.com