Woman Rescued After Being Stuck for 16 Hours in 12-Inch Gap of East County Cave

Thunder Canyon Cave
A rescuer uses a roping mechanism to free a woman who got stuck in an East County cave this weekend. Cal Fire photo

Rescue crews worked through the night to free a woman trapped in Thunder Canyon Cave northeast of McCain Valley Road in the Boulevard area of East County this weekend.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department officials said they received a call just before 6:00 p.m. Saturday after the woman got stuck in a gap about 12 inches wide and her friends were unable to free her.

Several agencies responded to assist in freeing the trapped woman including the department’s Rural Division, sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteers, state Office of Emergency Services crews and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

It takes hours to hike into the caves and rescuers had to inch their way into very narrow passages while slowly passing along their gear and equipment, officials said. They checked on the woman and kept her warm with blankets to prevent hypothermia. They used roping mechanisms to extricate her and she was rescued out of the cave on Sunday around 10:00 a.m.

A Cal Fire helicopter airlifted the unidentified woman to a safe area where a waiting ambulance treated her for exhaustion, scrapes and bruises, according to sheriff’s officials.

In a statement, the sheriff’s department provided safety guidelines for those who go caving:

  • Never go caving alone
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you’ll return
  • Stay on the trail if one exists
  • Pay attention on your route
  • Watch out for tight crevices, low ceiling, uneven footing and other hazards
  • Wear proper clothing and shoes
  • Bring light sources
  • Even though there is no cell service in a cave, it is important to take a fully charged phone so you can call for help as soon as you’re outside