A Nashville man is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after suffering a stroke on a spelunking expedition almost a quarter-mile deep inside Southport Saltpeter Cave in Maury County.
Buddy Baldwin has owned the cave for 22 years, and during that time, he estimates he's guided six to seven thousand people through the 5,000 feet of underground passages.
"There's a lot of loops, some of them actually connect, and some of them go under the other passages," Baldwin explained. "Several big rooms, some pits in there, a lot of high places and a lot of tight crawls."
On Tuesday, Baldwin was guiding a small group of spelunkers through the cave system, when a 48-year-old Nashville man with the group encountered a medical issue, later deemed to be a stroke.
"His friends were there with him and everyone remained calm, which helped tremendously," said Baldwin.
Baldwin and two of the cavers went for help, leaving the victim inside the cave with his girlfriend to wait for first responders.
"Two years ago, three years ago, we wouldn't have been able to pull this type of rescue off," said Roy Brooks, a Firefighter with Columbia Fire Department.
Recent special operations and technical trainings have paid off for the five agencies that responded to Tuesday's cave emergency.
"It was our first cave rescue," Brooks told Nashville's News 2. "We've been trained in high angle rescue and confined space, and we combined those disciplines to work it."
The rescue took around two hours, and was executed after dark.
The man was transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center via helicopter where he is recovering from surgery.