Teenagers Eric Bennet and Dwayne Easter, aged seventeen, never in their
wildest imagination dreamt that their exploring adventure at 'Devil
Icebox" would turn into a near-death experience. They had been
exploring deep within the forbidding-looking abandoned mine on Pilot Knob
Mountain when disaster struck.
A huge boulder shifted drastically and Eric was
hurled forward 20 feet into complete darkness. While he escaped with minor
scratches, Dwayne was not so lucky. As huge
parts of the hundred-year-old mine began to collapse, Dwayne was thrown backward
and pinned by an immense grey boulder. Trying to control his panic and tears
despite the unbearable pain that was tearing at his lower body, Dwayne tried to
catch his breath and then lapsed into silence
as the pain transformed into numbness.
Hearing Dwayne's agonizing scream
pierce the air, Eric picked up his torch and switched it on. Following the cries
of "My legs! Oh goodness, my legs!" Eric looked up to find Dwayne's body
dangling upside down over the side of a six-foot high ledge. His legs were
pinned by a boulder. Quickly assessing the situation,
Eric picked his way through the rubble and got out of the cave, leaving Dwayne
with the words, "I've got to get help." Running all the way to the town of Pilot
Knob in Missouri, Eric alerted Deputy Sheriff, Water Yates, who lost no time in
gathering volunteers. Eric, Yates and three volunteer firemen then made their
way to the mine where Dwayne had been hanging for about two hours.
cried Dwayne's voice from somewhere in the darkness that encompassed the cave.
Moving nearer to Dwayne, Yates and the firemen saw that his shoes had been
crushed to a width of about two inches. Although Dwayne's feet were inside those
shoes, there was very little bleeding and his pulse rate and skin color were
also more or less normal. There was still the threat of shock, however, and
Yates knew that if there was even any pressure around the boulder causing it to
move, it would jeopardize the lives of not just Dwayne, but all of them waiting
beneath it. Not wanting to alarm Dwayne, Yates whispered, "Its bad, real bad,"
to the others and urged them to get more medical help and volunteers to rescue
Dwayne as well as the rescuers in case the entire mien collapsed.
By 6 p.m.,
nearly four hours after the accident, more volunteers had joined the rescue
operation in the cave which had been filled with floodlights. The rescuers did
not merely have to deal with the tension and trauma, but also with the bats that
were flying wildly and slamming into their faces. Trying to alleviate Dwayne's
pain, nurse Lidi Eberhardt, a volunteer, injected Dwayne with a shock-retarding
saline solution while another volunteer positioned himself directly beneath the
ledge so that the weight of Dwayne's body would rest on him instead.
portions of the boulder rested on solid rock while others were supported only by
rubble. The boulder resting precariously on the ledge further posed a serious
hazard to the rescuers. The first attempt to lift the boulder with the jack
failed and the second caused it to be lifted slightly.
Hope turned to terror, however, when the boulder suddenly started to
shift and teetered dangerously on the ledge while the rescuers prepared
themselves for death. Fortunately, it merely slid a few inches and then came to
a miraculous stop with Dwayne still pinned beneath it.
Their spirits flagging, the volunteers conceived a new and daring plan.