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Man trapped in cave dies during rescue attempt

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Cave rescue turns to recovery
  • John Edward Jones was stuck in cave crevice outside Salt Lake City
  • He was trapped in a space that was 18 inches wide, 10 inches deep
  • One of the rescue tools failed while trying to free him and Jones fell back
  • Utah

(CNN) -- A Utah man trapped for more than 26 hours in a crevice of a popular cave tourist attraction died as rescuers struggled to save him, authorities said Thursday.

John Edward Jones, 26, of Stansbury Park was stuck in the Nutty Putty Cave, which sits west of Utah Lake near Cedar Valley, according to the sheriff's office of Utah County.

The cave is 55 to 60 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Sheriff's officials said Jones entered the cave at around 6 p.m. Tuesday with a group of about 11 people and became stuck about 8:45 p.m. in a "tightly confined" feature inside Nutty Putty Cave called "Bob's Push."

Utah County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon told CNN affiliate KSL that Jones was trapped upside down in a crevice that was about 18 inches wide and about 10 inches high. The crevice is about 150 feet below the surface and about 700 feet from the cave entrance, according to the sheriff's department.

"They had him to a level spot where he wasn't heading downhill with his head below his feet," Cannon said. "During the course of that, they have a raising system to hold him in position, and one of the devices of that system failed, and Mr. Jones actually fell back to the area where he had been stuck for so long."

Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, rescuers got close enough to Jones to conclude that he was not breathing and he had no pulse. Rescue officials were meeting Thursday to determine how to recover Jones' body.

Rescuers had tried to reach Jones for more than 24 hours, but had problems navigating the treacherous terrain, Cannon said.

"Getting people to him is very difficult," Cannon told KSL before Jones died. "It is a tightly confined space. When there is movement, it is literally millimeters at a time."

There are narrow areas of the cave where visitors have to crawl on their bellies to get through, according to the attraction's Web site. Up to 5,000 people visit each year, the site said.