Men freed from Alleghany County cave, people ask why it took so long to find them

Cave is in the Low Moor area of the county

ALLEGHANY COUNTY, Va. – Two men were rescued Wednesday afternoon after spending four days inside an Alleghany County cave at the foot of Horse Mountain.

Jacob Watts and Jacob Elmore had been missing since Saturday, according to Alleghany County Sheriff's Office. The cave is in Low Moor and getting to them was the easy part, the biggest challenge was locating the men after they were reported missing.

While police were searching for the men above ground, the men were doing what they could to stay alive below ground. When the missing persons report was filed Monday, Watts' dad said he knew by that point his son had gone caving. But he said rescuers didn't go to check the cave until locals found the two men after they went and checked it on their own.

"There's people out here that worked really hard on this and I really appreciate it, but I'm not really pleased with the way it was handled, it seems like there was no protocol in place," Richard Watts said.

The two men trespassed on a CSX mainline to gain access to the cave. Glen Hugus is with the WestRock Rescue Squad and is a professional cave rescuer. He was one of the people who pulled the two men out and said the rescue wasn't particularly complex or technical, nor were the men pinned inside the cave.

"(The cave) was pretty open, a couple tight crawls that you just had to crawl through to get to them, nothing major," Hugus said. "(The men) were probably four hundred feet into the cave and from their hypothermia they were unable to exit the cave on their own abilities."

Richard Watts said he became worried after more than a day went by and he hadn't heard from his son. In the first hours, he didn't know he had gone caving.

"When he didn't show up for work, we started checking around, his credit card hadn't been used, we knew something was wrong," he said.

But once he began asking around, friends of his son told him that he and another friend had gone caving. He said he relayed that information to police, but he said police didn't immediately act on it.

Rescuers on scene confirmed that local untrained folks were the first ones to make verbal contact with the victims and said questions about the timeline and when professional crews began searching the cave were for police. Both men were treated for hypothermia and rescuers were satisfied with their job.

"We were just over two hours from the point of notification to when the patients and all rescuers were out of the cave, so everybody did a phenomenal job, this went about as well as could be expected for a cave rescue scenario," Alleghany County Director of Public Safety Ryan Muterspaugh.

It's unclear if the victims will face any trespassing charges for going into the cave.


About the Author: