An experienced British diver who was part of last year’s mammoth cave rescue in Thailand has himself been rescued after going missing as he explored an underwater cave in Tennessee.
The diver, identified as meteorologist Josh Bratchley, is said to be in good health and good spirits, according to Bill Whitehouse of the British Cave Rescue Council.
Earlier, a search for him had started following his failure to return from a group diving trip in Jackson County, Tennessee. Local authorities said the group surfaced late on Tuesday (local time), but Mr Bratchley was not with them.
They tried to locate him but could not.
Mr Bratchley was one of those involved in last year’s rescue of 12 junior soccer players and their coach from flooded caves in northern Thailand. South Australian anaesthetist Richard ‘Harry’ Harris and retired Perth vet Craig Challen were named joint Australians of the year for 2019 for their pivotal roles in that three-week operation.
Lieutenant Brian Krebs, from Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services, told America’s ABC News that specialty divers were being flown in to help find Mr Bratchley.
Earlier, the first rescuers on the scene reportedly identified an air bell in the cave that has enough oxygen for at least a day. ABC News said Mr Bratchley was found there.
“This dive is roughly 400 feet [120 metres]. … It is tight passage,” Lieutenant Krebs said.
The route into the cave was said to have limited visibility, and take 30-45 minutes.
#BREAKING Josh Bratchley, who disappeared while scuba diving in a Tennessee cave, has been rescued! He’s in good health and good spirits. He was in an air bell when found. Bratchley was part of the Thai cave rescue last summer and had been to that Jackson County cave before. pic.twitter.com/1L6Yu43gfC
— JessicaJagloisWKRN (@JessicaJagsTV) April 18, 2019
Bill Whitehouse, vice chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council, told the Press Association earlier: “There’s a British cave diver who is overdue on a dive in a cave in Tennessee, a place called Mill Pond Cave, Flynn Creek, in Gainsboro.
“He went in on Tuesday on, I understand, a dive to replace a guideline in the flooded section of the cave and he didn’t return from that mission.
“A couple of others there went in to look for him and weren’t able to find him. When they weren’t able to find him, they came out and they raised the alarm.”
Mr Bratchley had travelled to the US with a group from Britain specifically to explore the cave, which is reachable only under water.