Authorities: Man falls into pit in cave and dies

TATEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A man slipped into a deep pit and was
killed Wednesday while exploring a treacherous southeastern
Kentucky cave, officials said.
Crews worked for hours to recover the body of Steven Troxell,
21, who died of blunt force trauma, said Pulaski County Coroner
Richard New.
Troxell and two companions were walking inside the Sloans Valley
cave when he fell into the cone-shaped, 30-foot-deep pit. His
companions called 911 about 3 p.m. EST, officials said. The coroner
said the three were not experienced cavers.
The opening to the cave is located on private property, and it
was not clear whether the owners were aware anyone was exploring
it, New said.
Troxell's body was found about three-quarters of a mile inside
the cave, which is part of a system that meanders about 25 miles
beneath private and public lands in a part of Kentucky known for
its outdoor recreation. The system is one of the longest in the
world.
"It's probably one of the most treacherous caves in the county
and probably in the cave system," New said.
Outside the cave opening, Troxell's family anxiously awaited
word. His mother, Rita Troxell of Somerset, said she was stunned
when she got the news her son had been inside the cave.
"He was always a scaredy-cat," she said, tears welling in her
eyes. "I used to tell him he was scared of his own shadow. That's
why I was surprised he went into the cave."
She said her son was a construction worker, but was unemployed.
Steven Troxell had been with friends Brandon Butt, 26, and
Brooke Butt, 21, who made it out unharmed, New said.
Don Franklin, area manager for the state emergency management
agency, said the pit where Troxell was found was dry, but crews had
to navigate through a wet, muddy path full of rock falls and
vertical climbs to get to him.
"This isn't the first recovery we've had here ... and it won't
be the last," Franklin said.
In 2006, an Ohio man described as experienced died after falling
from a ledge in the cave while attempting to climb out a
particularly tricky exit.
Though Sloans Valley is a favorite cave system for spelunkers,
inexperienced cavers are discouraged from attempting to navigate
it, Franklin said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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