CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The successful rescue of twelve Thailand boys and their soccer coach gave world something to cheer. "Just a logistical nightmare that they were dealing with," said Iowa Task Force One Cedar Rapids Division Director Dan Dall. Throughout the efforts in Thailand, his group felt a small but meaningful connection. Rescue manager Corey Archer said, "Responders around the world those folks are some pretty elite individuals.”
Iowa Task Force One members with the Cedar Rapids division and the Cedar Rapids Fire Department could relate because six years ago in May of 2012, they were called for a rescue at the Maquoketa caves. "Far and away the most dangerous thing I’ve ever been a part of in a rescue situation,” said Cedar Rapids Battalion Chief Andy Olesen.
Archer recalls two individuals, one male and female had been exploring the caves when the female became stuck. "They were basically climbing through and got to a part that was slightly technical and the female was initially stuck. The male assisted, which allowed him to get stuck in that same choke point.”
The female alerted authorities but at four-hundred feet underground, the male was stranded. After several hours rescuers and the victim were running low on options and oxygen. "Standard oxygen is around 29%, our rescues are 14%-15%," said Archer.
Similar to the Thailand rescue, with rain in the forecast, Iowa task force had to find a way to get more air to both parties. Archer demonstrated how they used oxygen masks connected to hoses saying, "We ran it all the way in and they had a rehab area where they could breathe in this mask and supplement oxygen."
As the sun rose the next day, there were signs of hope and the dramatic rescue was a success. Archer said, "From the time the 9-1-1 call came to the time he was extricated it was approx. twenty-four hours.”
The American Heart Association says normal systolic blood pressure is around 120, high blood pressure is around 135. After rescuing the victim from the Maquoketa caves, Iowa Task Force rescuers had a blood pressure above 200 putting their bodies into hypertensive crisis which can cause a loss of consciousness or heart attack.
Olesen said, “We had to make decisions we typically wouldn’t make and take risks we typically wouldn’t take to get that young man out because there were not any other options.”
The risks paid off. Unfortunately with the added layers of difficulty in Thailand, one Navy SEAL rescuer paid the ultimate price. Archer said, "With a loss of life as far as a rescuer, it is a brotherhood and sisterhood across the world and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
in all, twenty members of the Iowa Task Force One, Cedar Rapids division assisted in the twenty-four hour-long Maquoketa cave rescue.