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All five persons trapped in the Križna Jama cave successfully rescued

After three days, cave rescuers successfully rescued all five trapped persons from the Križna Jama cave. A family of three and two cave guides were trapped in the cave because high water levels prevented them from getting out. This also caused difficulties for the rescuers, who were unable to reach the trapped people by boat.

The family and the guide were trapped about 2.4 kilometres from the cave entrance. According to Srečko Šestan, Commander of the Civil Protection of the Republic of Slovenia, the water, which caused the high water level, came from the direction of Croatia, which surprised even the experienced cave guides.

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On the morning of 6 January, a family of three with a child of full age and two guides went on a commercial tour of the Cave of the Cross, led by the Cave of the Cross Lovers' Association. As they had not emerged from the cave at the scheduled 3 p.m., the duty officer from the Association descended into the cave and realised that there was a surge of water, so he launched a rescue operation.

The divers had difficulty getting to them during the first night and provided them with the essentials. They were overwhelmed by the rapids and could not reach them by boat. On Monday afternoon, 8 January, they managed to reach them by boat and were transported out of the cave with the help of divers.

Mr Šestan thanked the cave rescue service, the firefighters and all the Civil Protection structures, including the regional headquarters, which took care of all the logistics of the rescue operation.

  • National civil protection team for technical diving in front of the cave.

    The first divers reached the trapped people during the night and took care of them, while the second dive was carried out on Sunday afternoon by the national civil protection technical diving team, who returned from the cave in the evening. Photo: Cave Rescue Service

The rescue operation ended on the afternoon of 8 January. The health of those trapped in the cave was good and the mood was positive.

However, the divers had to make great efforts to reach them on Sunday. The water was very high and it took them about five hours to reach the section of the Križna Jama cave where they were trapped. The rapids were quite a problem, so they could not reach them by boat. They were transported out of the cave by boat, escorted and guarded by divers.

The five were safe in the cave, in a heated bivouac on a rock ledge about ten metres above the water, with food, warm clothes and torches. They took turns sleeping, exercising and tending to their food. When they first saw the rescuers, they were very excited.

A similar accident has never happened in a tourist water cave in Slovenia. In the past, there have been a few cases of water in the Križna Jama cave, but the water quickly drained away and the trapped people were able to return to the surface on their own.

"Today is a day of happiness and life," said Sandi Curk, the commander of the Civil Protection Force for Notranjska region, where the cave is located.

"It was not a simple job for us, but it was not difficult either. Once we knew they were fine, we knew we were going to do this," said Igor Benko, the president of the Slovenian Speleology Association, one of the three leaders of the rescue effort.

Author: Vesna Žarkovič

Date: 9. January 2024

Time to read: 3 min