Missing cave diver in Jackson County rescued; Josh Bratchley says he’s ‘fine’

Tennessee
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The diver trapped in an underwater cave in Jackson County has been rescued. Josh Bratchley had been missing for more than 24 hours. He was found in an air pocket inside the cave.  

A specially trained cave diver found him shortly before 7 p.m. The rescue took 40 to 50 minutes. 

“Shockingly there he was calm as can be. He just said ‘Thank you, thank you. Who are you?’” said Sorenson. 

When Bratchley came out of the cave he said he was fine and refused medical treatment, although he was checked out at the scene.  

“He’s a consummate professional, so he did a great job in aiding his rescue and we were in and out quickly and smoothly,” said Sorenson.  

The British Cave Rescue Council calls Bratchley one of the best cave divers in the world.

He was part of the elite international team that rescued 12 soccer players and their coach from a cave filled with water in Thailand last summer.

Highly trained rescue divers were flown in from Florida and Arkansas on Wednesday to help find the British diver. 

According to Derek Woolbright of the Jackson County Emergency Management team, dispatchers received a call around 1:15 a.m. Wednesday from a group of divers who said one of their members had not returned from a cave dive in the area of Flynn’s Creek Road.

Woolbright said the team of experienced cave divers went in around 3 p.m yesterday and did not realize one of them was missing until they came out. They went back to try to find him, but could not. That’s why they delayed calling for help

The entrance to the cave is underwater.

“My mind is blown,” Woolbright said. “I’ve lived here and worked here [and] didn’t know this existed, but we’ve gotten information from other divers.” 

Woolbright says the missing man is not an amateur. He is highly trained, experienced and mentally and physically fit to explore the cave. This is also not his first visit to the site.

According to Bill Whitehouse of the British Cave Rescue Council, cave diving is “pretty much the most dangerous activity on the planet.”  He says Bratchley was apparently laying guideline when his partners realized he did not come out of the cave. 

Tennessee Tech has mapped the cave. There is a large air pocket that they believe the missing diver knew about. He was wearing a dry suit to help him stay warm in 55-degree water. 

Rescue efforts include the Jackson County Rescue Squad and the Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Service. Plus the crews from Florida and Arkansas Two doctors and paramedics were also at the scene.    

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