VIRGINVILLE, Pa. -- An epileptic explorer who a rescuer said 'should have survived' was slowly removed from a cave and pronounced dead Monday, nearly 35 hours after he became wedged in a narrow stone passageway 30 feet underground.
Robert E. Scott, 36, of Trappe, Pa., near Philadelphia, was removed at 12:35 p.m. EDT from the limestone cave 10 miles north of Reading, Pa., where he and five friends had begun the expedition early Sunday.
'Once he got there he started to panic,' said one of Scott's friends, Thomas Sweeny, 20. 'He started to squirm and tried to get better leverage but there is nothing to hold onto. The rocks are round and slimy with mud.'
Rescuers were able to get to openings on either side of Scott, giving him medicine to control seizures and feeding him coffee and hot dogs. But he died unexpectedly and quietly, without complaining of pain.
Officials said it appeared Scott died at 7 a.m. Monday even though he had been connected to a medical monitoring system.
'At 7 o'clock my people suddenly lost vital signs. We don't know why,' said John Hempel, spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based National Cave Rescue Commission, which sent a group to the scene.
'Since 7, we had taken all measures to revitalize the victim and resuscitate him,' he said. 'I think everybody did everything they could. We had a perfectly stable victim. He should have survived with the treatment he was getting.'
An autopsy was scheduled on the body of Scott, who had been stuck in the cave since about 2 a.m. Sunday.
Hempel said it took rescuers from 7 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. to free the 6-foot, 166-pound Scott and bring him to the surface.
'At one time we had a small (rescuer) with a dead body on top of him crawling an inch at a time,' Hempel said.
Officials said Scott was wedged in a part of the Dreibelbis Cave where outcroppings of the walls are only about 7 inches apart, forming a kind of hourglass configuration. His friends squeezed through the narrow opening on foot, but Scott decided to crawl through and became wedged.
One state police officer said Scott and the others began the expedition at night because 'the bats are out of the cave then.'