BERLIN (AP) — An injured German cave researcher was brought out of the country's deepest cavern after nearly two weeks underground Thursday following a spectacular multinational rescue operation.
Johann Westhauser sustained head injuries in a rock fall June 8 while nearly 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) underground in the Riesending cave system, in the Alps near the Austrian border. After several days of preparation, rescue teams embarked Friday on the arduous task of hauling him up through the labyrinth of narrow passages and precipitous vertical shafts.
After a short pause overnight, rescuers resumed work early Thursday morning and brought Westhauser the final 180 meters (590 feet) to the surface just before noon. By early afternoon, the 52-year-old had "arrived safe and sound at a hospital," Bavarian mountain rescue chief Norbert Heiland said.
A fit expert could scale the distance from the site of the accident to the entrance in about 12 hours, but rescuers had to haul Westhauser on a stretcher through the challenging terrain. The entrance to the cave is on a mountainside, some 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) above sea level.
Rescuers from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Croatia participated in the operation.