Injured caver rescued in 30-hour effort

Cerknica, 17 April - A 33-year-old local caver was rescued early this morning after being trapped in a newly discovered cave near Cerknica unconscious with severe head injury for more than 30 hours. Once brought out of the cave, she was taken by a helicopter to Ljubljana UKC hospital for further treatment, a civil protection official has told the STA.

Dolenja vas pri Cerknici
The entrance to Vranjedol Cave through a chasm where a 33-year-old caver was severely injured.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

Dolenja Vas near Cerknica
Rescuers at the entry into the chasm of the Vranjedol Cave, where a 33-year-old caver was severely injured.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

Dolenja Vas near Cerknica
Rescuers at the entry into the chasm of the Vranjedol Cave, where a 33-year-old caver was severely injured.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

Dolenja Vas near Cerknica
Rescuers at the chasm leading into Vranjedol Cave, where a 33-year-old caver was severely injured.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

Dolenja vas near Cerknica
Entrance to Vranjedol Cave.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

Dolenja vas pri Cerknici
Rescuiers at the entry into the chasm of the Vranjedol Cave where a 33-year-old caver was injured.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

Dolenja Vas near Cerknica
A sketch of the cave where the accident happened, drawn by the injured caver's brother.
Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Dolenja Vas near Cerknica
Cave rescuers just coming out of Vranjedol Cave, where a 33-year-old caver was severely injured.
Photo: Rosana Rijavec/STA

Sandi Curk, the head of the regional civil protection headquarters for the Notranjska region, said the injured caver had normal pulse rate and blood pressure when she was brought out of the cave on a stretcher.

UKC Ljubljana told the STA the caver's injuries remained life-threatening and her condition unpredictable.

The woman, a member of a local speleology club, had been unconscious since a large stone fell on her head on Saturday evening, piercing her helmet. A medical team descended into the chasm to provide her with emergency care.

It took rescuers four hours and five minutes to extract her on a stretcher from the site of the accident at a depth of about 100 metres. She was then transported to Cerknica, in south-central Slovenia, with an ambulance before an army helicopter took her to UKC Ljubljana.

"This way we ensured that she received medical care as quickly as possible and avoided the morning rush hour and the risk of further accidents," said Curk, who praised the work of the paramedics in extremely challenging conditions.

The injured caver was brought out of the cave at around 4am this morning, Walter ZakrajŇ°ek, head of the cave rescue service at the Slovenian Caving Association, told the STA. More information will be available at a press conference in Cerknica at noon today.

The injured caver was part of a group of six members of the Rakek speleology club who were exploring as yet unknown parts of Vranjedol Cave, a newly discovered cave near Cerknica. She was an experienced caver with more than a decade of experience.

After she was hit unconscious by a falling rock, a member of the group climbed out of the cave to get help, while the others stayed with her and helped her. She was unconscious throughout, but a doctor found she was responsive to pain stimuli.

The cave has several narrow passages that had to be carefully expanded with small amounts of explosives in an operation that took several hours. The stretcher she was brought up on was two metres long by 70 centimetres wide.

More than 100 cave rescuers were involved in the effort in what has been described as one of the most demanding cave rescue missions in the country ever.

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