Josh Bratchley is considered to be one of the best cave divers in the world.
Bratchley, from the United Kingdom, was one of the few elite divers to help rescue the soccer team of 12 boys and their coach who were trapped in a flooded Thailand cave in July 2018. He was honored as a member of the Order of the British Empire for his role in saving their lives.
Bratchley is a member of the U.K. Cave Diving Group, an organization that has been promoting cave diving safety, technique, education and exploration for more than 70 years, and he works as a meteorologist for the U.K.’s national weather service, according to a report by AccuWeather.
It’s safe to say that when he dove into the chilly Mill Pond Cave waters in Tennessee on April 16, he had the credentials to make the dangerous exploration.
But even with all of his experience, Bratchley himself needed rescuing after losing his way in the dark, murky Tennessee cave.
According to the Nashville Tennessean, Bratchley was the only person with the group who did not surface after exploring the cave filled with silt, tight turns and jagged edges.
His diving friends made several attempts to dive back into the cave and find him, but when their efforts were unsuccessful, they decided to do the wise thing and called for backup.
One of the divers who came to help was specialty diver Edd Sorenson, who flew in from Florida.
In a media conference, Sorenson told reporters that in most cases, by the time he is called it is for a body retrieval and not a rescue.
So the rescuer was elated when, after about 45 minutes of searching, he found a mud-covered Bratchley perched on a small ledge in an air pocket, waiting calmly for help.
Sorenson said that Bratchley looked “like a snowman, but of mud.” The diver was entirely coated and was cold but not injured, and still very calm despite having been in the cave for over 27 hours.
“I was amazed,” Sorenson said. “I probably could have been to him sooner but I was looking for every nook and cranny for a body, so when I popped out of the surface, I was looking directly at him.”
Bratchley had attempted to rescue himself but soon realized the safest option was to conserve oxygen and wait for help.
Sorenson was able to lead Bratchley safely out of the cave, thankful that this operation ended so positively.
“Putting people in body bags all the time is no fun. When you get to send someone home, it’s an exceptional feeling,” Sorenson said.
While the thought of being trapped alone in a dark, watery cave for 27 hours would drive most people into a state of panic, Bratchley had the fortitude to remain calm.
“His mental state was impeccable,” Sorenson said of Bratchley. “He’s a consummate professional so he did a great job aiding in his rescue and we were out quickly and smoothly.”
Medical crews examined Bratchley and found him uninjured, with no signs of hypothermia.
He was incredibly thankful for the rescue and had only one request: a nice, piping-hot pizza.
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