Two USA specialist rescuers were summoned to Jackson County, Tennessee when a British cave diver failed to surface from a dive on Tuesday 16 April 2018.
The experienced diver - Josh Bratchley - was part of a group of five UK divers exploring the far reaches of Mill Pond Cave. (Water temperature 12.7°C / 55°F). He was expected to surface between 15.00 and 16.00 local time. Mainstream media report that Bratchley had been laying line.
The remaining divers made several attempts over a number of hours to find him, before making a 911 call to emergency services early Wednesday morning, at 01.17 local time. Approximately an hour later two cave rescue specialists - Edd Sorenson and Mike Young - received phone calls, asking for their assistance.
Derek Woolbright (Jackson County EMA Public Information Office), stated during a news conference on Wednesday 17 April 2019, “There had been previous mapping of the cave by Tennessee Tech University and there [were] some air pockets that had been identified, I believe, previously that the diver was aware of so it’s a very good possibility that he would seek that out once he found himself in distress.”
The missing individual is known to have extensive training and experience in this area of expertise. Brian Krebs, Hamilton County Rescue Squad Lt.
Sorenson and Young arrived on site later in the day. Tennessee Highway Patrol flew Sorenson in from Nashville International whilst Young drove from Arkansas. The rescue dive began at approximately 18.00 local time.
Edd Sorenson stated "This was a really small, nasty cave. I could have got to him sooner, but I was looking at every nook and cranny, looking for a body. There were broken lines, and it was a very silty, dangerous low cave. We came up to the air pocket and, shockingly, there he was, calm as could be. He just said ‘thank you, thank you. Who are you?'" Just under an hour later Edd Sorenson and Josh Bratchley safely surfaced. Bratchley had been missing for 28 hours.
Derek Woolbright later reported that Josh Bratchley "was awake, alert and oriented. His only request when he got to the surface was that he wanted some pizza."
When I spoke to Josh Bratchley earlier today, he said that the irony of the situation had not been lost on him.
I could have met Edd Sorenson and Mike Young in better circumstances. Josh Bratchley
Josh Bratchley stated there were a number of factors involved in the dive including slimy mud, zero visibility and 1mm line. He confirmed that he intends to resume diving on Monday 22 April 2019.
British Cave Rescue Council
The BCRC released the following statement.
"Last night BCRC was both pleased and relieved to receive some excellent news from the United States informing them that Josh Bratchley had been successfully rescued from Millpond Cave in Tennessee where he had been overdue on a cave dive undertaken there on Wednesday.
Josh was a member of the BCRC team who travelled to Thailand last summer to help with the remarkable rescue of twelve boys and their football coach who had become trapped by floodwater in the Tham Luang Cave.
Our congratulations and thanks go to the Chatanooga-Hamilton County Rescue Service and all others involved in Josh’s rescue."
Josh Bratchley was handpicked to join the Thai cave rescue team because the situation demanded high levels of adaptability and calm under all circumstances. He later received the MBE 'for services to cave diving overseas'.