Historical and Physical Identity!
The Nutty Putty Caves were discovered in 1960. The caves were given their name because of the soft brown clay that lined many of the cave passages at the time of discovery. The system was made up of dozens of rooms that were connected by narrow, low-ceilinged corridors to one another.
Although it required a significant amount of wriggling and crawling to navigate, it was considered a sound cave system for beginners and was visited by thousands of people each year. In addition, visitors could take advantage of attractions such as The Big Slide, a room where the floor descended at a 45-degree angle.
There was also The Maze, a bewildering maze of tiny chambers and narrow corridors that was entertaining to explore and contained a hollow rock that was said to ring like a bell when struck by a lightning bolt. Unfortunately, even though the caves were marketed as beginner-friendly, there were some difficulties. From 1999 to 2004, many people, including two boy scouts, became trapped in tight or narrow passageways of the caves and had to be rescued by experts. As a result of these incidents, some changes were made in the way the shelter was run.
After being closed for several years, the caves were reopened with a registration system in place. Groups would have to make reservations online to ensure that cave management was aware of who was down there, and the shelters would not be overcrowded at any given time.
A Happy Pre-Thanksgiving trip?
An avid caver named John Edward Jones once entered the Nutty Putty caves, just south of Salt Lake City, at around 8:00 p.m. on the 24th of November, 2009. It was just before Thanksgiving, so he was accompanied by family and friends. It was meant to be a short getaway the two of them could have together before the holiday. Instead, it spiralled out of control, turning into a living nightmare that would lead to the suicide of John Edward Jones.
On the 24th of November, 2009, John Edward Jones and his friends and family made their way into the Nutty Putty Caves for the first time. Josh, John’s brother, was present in the group. The two siblings had a combined total of over a hundred cave explorations under their belts. They had been on numerous underground adventures throughout the state of Utah during their childhood, but they had never been to the Nutty Putty Caves until now.
For nearly an hour, everything went smoothly on the trip. The group made their way through the caverns, crawling, scrambling, and inching their way through, delighted by each discovery. Finally, after dark, John came across what he believed to be the entrance to Birth Canal, a well-known stretch of the caves that was so named because of how tight and narrow it was. The passageway with which John was confronted most certainly fit the description provided.
Merriment Meets Tragedy!
He squeezed his way into the room and wriggled forward. His hesitation was brief when the narrow crevice swung downward and into the darkness of the cave. In addition, he was confident that he was in the Birth Canal, which he knew could be safely navigated with the proper precautions if he just maintained his composure through the passage. Unfortunately, it turned out that John wasn’t in the birth canal after all. Instead, he was wriggling headfirst down an uncharted tunnel in a different part of the caves, a tunnel that had never been explicitly charted before because it was far too small to be used for anything.
John crawled forward, utterly oblivious to the danger until he couldn’t anymore. When he realized he was trapped, he was lying face down in an almost vertical passage with a diameter that was no larger than the opening of a front-loading washing machine. He wasn’t able to move an inch.
John’s brother Josh was close behind him and soon realized something was wrong. When he learned that John was stuck, he first attempted to pull him out but only shifted him a few inches. Then, realizing that the situation was beyond them, Josh raced back out of the caves to fetch help while another friend waited by John’s side.
The Rescue Team Arrives!
Rescue teams were on the scene within a few hours. They were about to embark on a complicated operation. It was now midnight, and it was utterly dark both outside and inside the caves. The space in which John was trapped was extremely narrow, which meant that no matter how many resources were available, only one person could get close enough to him to help him at any given point in time. Nevertheless, John maintained as much composure as he possibly could under the circumstances.
The first rescue worker on the scene thanked them for their efforts and expressed his desire to “really, really get out” of the flooded building. But, unfortunately, making that a reality would be next to impossible in the current environment. Although rescue workers tried for hours to drill out the rock surrounding John, they could only widen a small section of the passage by several inches, even after hours of effort.
Instead, they devised a system of ropes and pulleys to secure a loop around John’s legs, which they abandoned after a few minutes (the only part of him that they could reach). Then, they began the long and arduous process of dragging him out of the building. At first glance, it appeared as though this strategy would be successful. They could raise him a significant distance out of the vertical crevice he was trapped in, but it was excruciating for John to do so. Finally, the radio was brought down to John to communicate with his pregnant wife outside the caves while taking a break from their exploration.
Things Are Getting Out-of-Control!
Until this point, John had been stuck in place for 19 hours – nearly an entire day spent upside down in a space so small that breathing had become a challenge. Having to endure being upside down for an extended period is not a minor inconvenience. It causes blood to pool in the head, causing a blood vessel to rupture, or it puts so much pressure on the eyes that it causes blindness. A stroke causes it.
The organs lie heavily on top of the lungs, resulting in breathing difficulties and often unconsciousness. For some people, being suspended upside down for as little as 10 minutes can be fatal. John had been stuck that way for almost an entire day. Despite this, he remained pretty calm. After several more pulls, he was high enough to make eye contact with one of the rescuers.
In response to the question of how he was doing, he stated, “It stinks.” I’m on my backside. The fact that I am upside down is beyond comprehension. I’m having trouble with my legs.” The chance of escape must have seemed quite natural to John at this point in his life, given his exhaustion and misery. Obtaining a flight away from his detention facility, medical attention, as well as communication with friends and family Every one of these items was so close to him that he must have thought they were almost tangible. The unfortunate thing about this is that something went wrong at that time.
As the rescuers yanked on the rope once more, something gave way violently and caused an explosion. When a bullet struck the rescuer closest to John in the face, he was briefly knocked unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he could only see dust and darkness. It took several minutes for him to regain his bearings and realize the terrible truth: John had slid right back down into the crevice from which they’d been dragging him for the past several minutes.
What exactly had happened?
One of the stone arches around which the rope had been looped had been shattered, and the bolt that had been closest to the arch had been pulled out of the rock, creating slack in the string and allowing John to slip through. The bolt was responsible for striking the rescuer in the face and rendering him unconscious. A replacement was wriggled into the narrow defile from the other side to get the injured rescuer out of the cave for medical attention.
They attempted to speak to John but could not elicit a response, although they could hear him breathing laboriously and shallowly. At last, desperate, they wriggled down into the narrow cave to try and loop another rope around his waist, but they became entangled and had to be rescued from the darkness.
A doctor was escorted down into the caves to make the best assessment he could of John’s condition. However, unfortunately, the news was the worst that could have possibly been delivered. John had passed away at the age of 76. Despite a day-long rescue operation that included dozens of workers, the confinement and inversion had taken their toll. On the 25th of November, at the stroke of midnight, he was declared dead.
His friends and family were devastated to learn of his death. John was only 26 years old at the time, fit and healthy, and expecting his first child. His death in a cave system considered relatively safe for beginners came as a shock to everyone who witnessed it. Furthermore, it was quickly determined that any attempt to recover his body would be impossibly difficult and potentially dangerous to undertake.
In response to the incident, the landowner expressed his desire to dynamite the caves and ultimately destroy them but was persuaded to refrain from doing so. Instead, the caves were sealed shut with a concrete plug, transforming them into a tomb for John Edward Jones and his descendants. In addition, a plaque has been installed at the entrance to the cemetery to commemorate the final resting place of an exceptional young man who died far too soon in his life.