MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A teenager is recovering at Regions Hospital in St. Paul after spending hours trapped in a cave in Lilydale Regional Park.
Rescue crews got the call for help around 12:45 a.m. Sunday. Authorities said the 19-year-old climbed into a three foot opening in the Mississippi River bluffs near Water Street, just west of the high bridge.
The victim fell about 20 feet and couldn’t get back out.
St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said authorities got the call for help after the teenager texted a friend that he was trapped in the cave. It took the Advanced Tactical Rescue Teams from St. Paul and Minneapolis several hours to find him. They heard his calls for help around 5 a.m. The opening to the cave was located about 20 feet up a steep incline that was surrounded by trees and underbrush.
“It was quite a rescue job to extricate him from there,” Zaccard said. “All this vegetation, it was hard for the rescuers to get around and we were working with flashlights but we were able to find him and rescue him.”
Authorities said they knew they had a limited amount of time to find him safely. Carbon monoxide poisoning has claimed the lives of five other teens who have been trapped in the caves over the last two decades.
“We’re really grateful we were able to get to him in time before he was overcome by carbon monoxide,” Zaccard said.
Rescue crews spent several hours onsite after the teen was pulled to safety. They searched the entire 300 foot cave because of concern that someone else might be inside. The teen went into the cave alone, but authorities found an abandoned car parked near the victim’s vehicle. They didn’t find anyone else inside the cave.
The teen had minor injuries and is expected to survive.
The city blocks off the entrances to the cave systems around Wabasha and Water Street, but with so many different entrance points, the caves remain a draw for urban explorers.