Rescued! Injured caver brought to surface after extraordinary 11-day ordeal

An injured German cave researcher was brought out of the country’s deepest cavern after nearly two weeks underground on Thursday, following a spectacular multinational rescue operation. Johann Westhauser sustained head injuries in a rock fall June 8 while nearly 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) underground in the Riesending cave system, in the Alps near the Austrian border. After several days of preparation, rescue teams embarked last Friday on the arduous task of hauling him up through the labyrinth of narrow passages and precipitous vertical shafts.

The victim has been brought to the surface and is receiving emergency medical care.

A mountain rescue official

Rescuers placed Westhauser on a fibreglass stretcher and negotiated a treacherous and labyrinth-like network of tunnels and chambers, underground lakes and ice-cold waterfalls. The rescue operation involved rest periods in five bivouac stops followed by a major final hoist up a 180-metre vertical shaft near the entrance to the cave, officials said. The rescue effort involved professional cavers, medical personnel and helicopter crews from Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Croatia.