Updated Nov. 26, 2009 at 8:12 AM ET — What had looked like it was going to be a good news Thanksgiving story has turned into tragedy. John Jones has died. The 26-year old man had been trapped upside down in a tight spot in a Utah cave for more than two days.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, rescuers had "freed" him briefly Wednesday evening, nearly 24 hours after he became lodged between rocks.
But the system of ropes and pulleys they had used to lift him a few feet failed and the man was pulled by gravity back into the same position he was originally wedged in.
Jones was a medical student at the University of Virginia who had been exploring the Nutty Putty cave near Utah's Goshen Valley with family and friends Tuesday when he became trapped.
What was once a rescue effort has now become one of recovering his body.
Updated at 8:05 PM ET — Rescuers have freed the man who was trapped in a narrow seam in a cave for close to 24 hours. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
Search and rescue crews have freed a man who has been stuck upside down in a crevice of Utah County's Nutty Putty cave since Tuesday night.
Now rescuers are working to get the 26-year-old John Jones out of the cave to a waiting medical helicopter. Now that Jones is free, he is being given food and water before rescuers try to escort him out of the rest of the cave.
He was able to speak with his wife over police radio, said his father, Leon Jones.
"He was able to hear her," he said. "It really perked him up."
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If John Jones finds himself sitting at a dinner table on Thursday, he will have a lot more than most of us to be thankful about since, at last check, he was stuck in an upside down position in a Utah cave where he has been since Tuesday evening.
Jones, a 26-year old University of Virginia medical student, got lodged in a cave known as Nutty Putty while spelunking with a group in the Goshen Valley. The way he's wedged in is resulting in some circulation problems.
Rescue crews are using compressed-air powered tools in an attempt to break the rock around him to free him.
As the Salt Lake Tribune reports:
John Jones, a 26-year-old from Stansbury Park, is suffering from circulation problems after getting wedged in a narrow part of the cave called "Bob's Push" around 8:45 p.m., said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon.
"He's just plain, flat stuck," Cannon said, but is doing "remarkably well given the circumstances." Jones, a medical student at the University of Virginia, was with a group of 11 people who shimmied into the narrow entrance to the cave, which is a hole on top of a hill about seven miles west of State Road 68. He got stuck about 700 feet into the cave and is now about 150 feet underground.
Video Courtesy of KSL.com
"We were just looking forward to a good time," said Mike Jones, the victim's 32-year-old brother. "We were in a pretty happy mood."
The group split into two, with several children and some adults staying behind in the less treacherous "big slide" area while some others went looking for "an adventure" in the more advanced parts of the cave, said 23-year-old Josh Jones, another brother who was with the group.
Jones, who is about six feet tall and 200 pounds, was going head-first into a space 18 inches wide by 8 to 10 inches tall when he realized he was stuck.
"He got to a point where he couldn't back out. He got himself wedged into the vertical crevice upside down," Josh Jones
For those of us whose claustrophobia kicks in during a standard CAT scan, the very thought of being trapped in a rock seam like Jones is nightmarish almost beyond words.
Here's hoping the rescuers get him out soon and in good shape and that on Thursday he's able to tell the mother of all Thanksgiving dinner stories at the dinner table with his family.