This poor guy. When we read the story of John Jones getting stuck in a cave upside-down, we were shocked and horrified. When talking about true stories, the story of John Jones was something we kept referring to in conversation, so we knew we had to write about it. It is in fact one the scariest things online that’s a 100% true story.
For starters, caving is a tremendously dangerous sport. So much so, that only a few thousand people in the world do it. In the United States, only approximately 3 people die per year while caving (because so few people do it). Football by comparison, has approximately 13 deaths per year for hundreds of thousands of players…which means that football is significantly safer according to probability statistics. In the UK, the list of caving fatalities is so short that they record it in an unofficial list on Wikipedia. And if you look at the list, you can see how most people die while caving…
- Rock Fall
- Slip and fall
Why anyone would choose to engage in a “sport” that results in such brutal fatalities is beyond me. However, this one story caught our eye.
What happened in the death of John Jones at Nutty Putty Cave in Utah?
Nutty Putty cave is a naturally formed hydrothermal cave located in Utah County, Utah. Unlike other caves, Nutty Putty cave is rather warm, so people sometimes go caving there with less equipment, less clothing and less expertise. It’s a cave that was considered a good cave for beginners, not being very deep, only approximately 600 feet deep. Check out our article on the The Deepest Cave In The World if interested in breath-taking caves.
John Jones was an Utah native and only 23 years old. On November 24, 2009, only a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday, John and his brother, one of his friends and 9 other people entered Nutty Putty cave in the evening at approximately 8PM.
The cave was mapped well (cave map below). After crawling through the cave for some time, Johns brother and his friend decided to search for a specific area of the cave that was popular to visit. John decided to move in his own direction.
After crawling the cave, John moved into a tight area that offered very little ability to move. He was shimmying his body forward by moving his hips and his fingertips. Note: if shimmying is required to move forward…then DON’T MOVE FORWARD! Bad idea!
John Jones Becomes Stuck In A Horrifying Position
Anyway, after shimmying, John got stuck. He was 400 feet deep in the cave. As he tried to correct his error, he got more stuck. Eventually, he was completely upside down, with his arms at his side to prevent any lifting power, his head in a hole, his legs straight with is torso, and with limited space to move his chest to breath.
After searching for John, his brother found him and went for help. A rescue team arrived at about 12:30 AM (approximately 3 hours after becoming stuck). They worked methodically to free him. With difficulty to breath, limited oxygen and fluid dangerously swelling in his head and chest, rescue teams organized various pulley systems to try to lift and pull his body out by his legs. However, the angle of his body and the closeness of the roof of the cave made it so that John could only be pulled out if his legs were bent and likely broken…obviously not an option.
At one point, rescue teams almost succeeded with a rope around the calve muscles of his legs. However, the pulley mechanism failed. When the pulley became disconnected from the wall of the cave, John was dropped and with the full weight of his body he was lodged even deeper into this narrow passage of the cave.
The rescue team worked for 27 hours to try to save him. The following evening shortly before midnight, John Jones suffered major cardiac arrest. His heart stopped. Being upside-down for so long, his heart could no longer bear the pressure of his body combined with the lack of oxygen.
This is an absolutely terrifying way to go, certainly undeserved for a 23 year old father that was simply enjoying an evening with his brother and friends. Certainly the scariest part is the upside down position that he was stuck in.
The aftermath of John Jones Death
After his death, his body was left in place and will forever remain. His family agreed to leave his body due to the dangerous conditions that would be necessary to retrieve his body.
The cave was sealed with a concrete barrier shortly thereafter, because it was agreed to be too dangerous for other visitors. Before his death, other people had called the rescue teams to Nutty Putty cave before (all successful), but the death of John Jones death proved that it was necessary to close the cave forever.
The Last Descent – A Movie About John Jones Death
This story was tragic and terrifying at the same time.
A movie was made about the story of John Jones, called The Last Descent. The movie shares the relationship of John with his wife and daughter, his scary experience and the aftermath of his death.
Here is the movie trailer:
Our heart goes out to his family. Thank you for reading.