A member of the diving team that helped to rescue 12 soccer players form a flooded Thailand cave last summer has been rescued himself, after going missing in a Tennessee Cave, officials say.
Authorities launched a rescue operation in Jackson County to save the stranded Josh Bratchley, after he went missing somewhere in the depths of Mill Pond Cave.
He was found just after 6:58pm local time on Wednesday evening – nearly 24 hours after he originally went missing.
The diver is said to be in ‘good health and good spirits’, according to Bill Whitehouse, Vice Chariman of the British Cave Rescue Council.
He was evaluated by medical professionals but refused treatment, witnesses at the scene said.
Bratchley was reported missing late on Tuesday night after the group surfaced from a dive and Bratchley, a meteorologist by trade, was nowhere to be seen.
He traveled to Northern Tennessee from the United Kingdom with a group of who had been conducting a series of dives inside the submerged cavity for the last few days, ABC News reported.
A rescue mission is underway to save Josh Bratchley (pictured) from a cave in northern Tennesee. He was one of a number of divers credited with saving 12 Thai soccer players last year
Bratchley was among a group of divers from the United Kingdom, said to be exploring the Mill Pond Cave in Jackson County for the last few days
A Meteorologist by trade, Bratchley is said to be an expert diver. Rescuers believe he’s waiting in an ‘air bell’ 400 feet into the cave
Authorities were contacted by the group shortly after the conducted their own search of the cavern but failed to find any trace of him.
Specialty divers were been summoned to the area to assist the rescue mission and plunged beneath the surface at around 6:00pm on Wednesday evening, Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services said.
According to first responders, the cave contains an ‘air bell’ with enough oxygen to last at least 24 hours. Bratchley’s was believed to have been waiting in the air pocket while he awaited rescue.
The route to him, rescuers say, was around 400 feet long and 40 feet beneath the surface, with limited visibility. It was expected to take them as much as 40 minutes to reach him.
He was successfully recovered just 48 minutes after rescuers first dived below the surface of the water.
‘There had been previous mapping of the cave by Tennessee Tech University and there [were] some air pockets that had been identified, I believe, previously that the diver was aware of so it’s a very good possibility that he would seek that out once he found himself in distress,’ Jackson County EMA Public Information Officer Derek Woolbright said in a news conference on Wednesday.
‘This individual is known to be very experienced in this kind of thing.’
Specialty divers have been summoned to the area to assist the rescue mission and will likely plunge beneath the surface as early as Wednesday evening
Bratchley was awarded an MBE for his efforts in helping to rescue the Thai soccer team and their coach
Jackson County EMA Public Information Officer Derek Woolbright said in a news conference on Wednesday that rescuers believe Bratchley is waiting in an airbell 400ft into the cave
Bratchley was credited among a group of elite international divers involved in the intense operation of 12 young Thai soccer players and their coach in June 2018.
The group entered the cave during low tide, but excessive flooding soon blocked their exit and they were forced to retreat deeper into the cave.
Heavy rains then exacerbated the water levels and rescuers found themselves in a race against time to save the group’s lives.
Following a three-week ordeal, divers eventually found the group – hungry, but alive – huddled on a dry patch of land deep into the cave.
Rescuers map out the route they’ll be taking to hopefully find Bratchley
Handpicked for the mission, Bratchley was later awarded an MBE – standing for ‘Member of the Order of the British Empire’ – for his efforts by the Queen.
‘It’s incredible to be recognized in such a way and all of us on the team are extremely appreciative of all the support that we’ve received from family, friends, cavers, divers, colleagues and strangers alike,’ he said at the time.
One of the elite divers drowned during the rescue mission.