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February 6, 2014 dawned beautifully and we headed up to do a recce on an orienteering course we were setting for an upcoming event. The terrain is rough and there is a well known risk of sinkholes in the area. We have these marked on our map and were being extremely cautious as we moved through the terrain. We had been placing marker tapes for approximately an hour and a half when I stepped forward to place one on a small bush. Initially I thought I would drop perhaps a few centimetres as often happens when traveling in rocky terrain, but I didn't. I dropped 5 metres straight down into a cavern, tumbled a further 4 metres at approximately 160 degrees of angle and then dropped another metre and a half into the bottom of the cavern. All I could think as I was falling was when is this going to stop, not knowing if it would.
I hit the bottom, conscious but a bit stunned. I checked myself for any injuries. Nothing broken but I could feel blood on my head and leg. I was carrying a first aid kit, spare thermal top, hat, jacket, survival blanket, head torch and my ACR locater beacon. I yelled up for my friend but couldn't initially hear her so I reached into my pack and found my beacon. Because I was not directly below the now very small hole I had fallen through, I tried to reach as high as I could up the sloping rock to place the beacon in line of sight of the hole, not knowing if it would be received. By this stage my friend (who did not have a beacon on her) had realized what had happened and called out that she was on the way for help. Once she was able to contact emergency services some time later, they had already picked up my beacon and help was on the way.
After 4 hours in the bottom of the cave, a cave rescue team member was lowered down to me, helped me put on a harness and I was assisted to the top. The beacon enabled rescue teams to find me immediately and get me out. I was lucky. My only injuries were severe bruising, cuts, scrapes and stitches to my knee. Cold was the worst but I managed to avoid hypothermia with the help of my survival blanket, spare clothing and extra blankets that were thrown down to me by the first rescue personnel on scene. I was amazed that the beacon was picked up so rapidly despite being out of direct line of sight of the opening and so far underground. What an amazing piece of equipment and I was so glad I had it.
Thank you ACR!
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