Turkey rescuers preparing complex effort to retrieve ill American from Morca Cave

Turkey rescuers preparing complex effort to retrieve ill American from Morca Cave

Rescuers in Turkey are preparing a complex effort to reach an American who has fallen ill and has been trapped in the Morca Cave since Saturday, officials said.

As of Tuesday, caver Mark Dickey, 40, was at a campsite around 3,400 feet from the entrance, according to the Turkish Caving Federation, which is assisting in the rescue.

The Hungarian Cave Rescue Service said it received a call Saturday saying a caver inside the around 4,100-foot deep cave was suffering gastrointestinal bleeding and needed help.

Dickey’s condition is stabilizing, the bleeding has stopped, and he is able to walk with assistance, the federation said in a statement Wednesday, but he needs a stretcher to be removed from the cave complex.

Mark Dickey.via Facebook

“The operation is logistically and technically one of the largest cave rescues in the world, involving 150 rescuers,” said the caving federation, which is working with Turkey’s government.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, part of the Interior Ministry, said it had teams on standby and was working in coordination with the Turkish Caving Federation.

Rescuers were setting up rope lines Wednesday as part of the rescue effort.

Dickey is an instructor with the National Cave Rescue Commission, and he has been for 10 years, said Gretchen Baker, the group’s national coordinator. He was co-leading an expedition to find and map a new passage in the cave, she said.

He fell ill at a depth of around 3,674 feet, the Turkish Caving Federation has said, before being moved to the group’s base camp at around 3,412 feet.

Dickey is being cared for by doctors and is with his fiancée, Jessica, who is also a caver, his parents, Andrew and Deborah Ann Dickey, said in a statement. They declined to be interviewed.

“Mark is strong, but he needed his fellow cavers, including, of course, the doctors, to allow a devastatingly scary situation to turn positive,” they said.

“Our prayers are being answered and we cannot express how much that means, and will always mean, to us,” they added.

Units of blood were delivered to Dickey this week, according to the Turkish Caving Federation. It said the operation to remove him and the stretcher was expected to be complex and lengthy. Morca Cave is the third-deepest cave in Turkey, it said.

While Dickey’s condition has improved, it could be days before he can reach the entrance.

“It’s still expected to take quite a few days to get him all the way out of the cave, as it’s such a difficult and technical cave and he is so far deep in it right now,” Baker said in an email Wednesday evening.

It takes around 15 hours for an experienced caver to reach the surface in ideal conditions, the Turkish Caving Federation has said.

The Morca Cave is in southern Turkey in the Taurus Mountains.

The National Cave Rescue Commission said on Facebook early Thursday ET that multiple rescue teams are working.

“More cave rescue teams are arriving, and they are dividing the cave up into sections. Different teams are helping to rig those sections,” the group said.

CORRECTION (Sept. 6, 2023, 10:30 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the caver’s name. He is Mark Dickey, not Marc.

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