Diver who helped save Thai soccer team rescued after becoming trapped in Tennessee cave

Rescuers came to the aid after the British explorer got separated from the rest of his group inside the cave.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Eun Kyung Kim

Sometimes, even the pros need a little help.

An elite cave diver who helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a Thai cave last summer was rescued himself from a cave in Tennessee.

Josh Bratchley, a British professional diver, emerged safely Wednesday night from a water-filled cave where he had been lost for the past 27 hours.

“He was awake, alert and oriented,” Derek Woolbright, a spokesman for the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said.

Along with four other explorers, Bratchley headed into a remote cave with low visibility, sharp turns and passages so narrow divers had to move at times in single file.

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“Five went into the cave. When they came back out, they realized they were missing an individual,” Woolbright said.

The four others spent hours trying to find Bratchley before finally calling 911. Tennessee authorities sought help from the country’s leading rescue divers.

Josh Bratchley emerged from the Tennessee cave covered in mud but healthy.TODAY

Edd Sorenson, a regional coordinator for the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery Team, flew in from Florida. He headed into the cave’s murky waters alone.

“It was a very silty, dangerous low cave,” he said at a news conference where he described finding Bratchley. “It wasn’t very far. It’s just a lot of ups and downs, jagged rock turns. Silty. Low, low, low visibility.”

Sorenson said he found Bratchley sitting in a large air pocket, waiting to be rescued.

“Shockingly, there he was, calm as could be. He just said, ‘Thank you, thank you,’” he said.

Edd Sorenson, a regional coordinator for the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery Team, describes how he aided Bratchley out of the Tennessee cave. TODAY

Last summer, it was Bratchley who played rescuer as a member of the British team that helped save a dozen young soccer players and their coach from a cave in Thailand.

Bratchley’s experience with cave diving helped in his survival when he got lost.

“He’s a consummate professional, so he did a great job in aiding his rescue, and we were in and out quickly and smoothly,” Sorenson said.

Local authorities said Bratchley was healthy when he emerged, covered head to toe in mud. He turned down a trip to the hospital for examination but did say he was hungry.

“His only request when he got to the surface was that he wanted some pizza,” Woolbright said.