Caver who helped rescue Thai soccer team rescued from Tennessee cave

/ CBS News

Jackson County, Tenn. — Authorities say a diver who took part in the rescue of a youth soccer team from a cave in Thailand in July was himself rescued from a cave in Tennessee Wednesday evening. He was described as being in good condition.

Bill Whitehouse of the British Cave Rescue Council identified the caver to CBS News as fellow Brit Josh Bratchley.

The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency said that at about 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, a group of divers from the United Kingdom reported that one of its members hadn't come back from a dive. The agency said they went back in for him but couldn't locate him.

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CBS Nashville affiliate WTVF reports local authorities launched a rescue effort and Bratchley was found by Ed Sorenson, a diver from Florida. Bratchley was in the cave more than 28 hours without food or water.

Sorenson recapped the rescue during a news conference.

It was unclear how Bratchley got lost, but Sorenson said the group had been laying new line in the cave. He believed Bratchley lost his line or a line was broken in that process.

Josh Bratchley, one of the British divers who helped save the Thai cave schoolboys, in October 2018 Steve Parsons / AP

"They were replacing that [line] so when I got in just a short distance, maybe 150 feet, there was just line floating everywhere."

Sorenson said Bratchley probably tried to make some "self rescues" looking for the line, but realized he wouldn't have enough air to make it out after multiple attempts, so he decided to wait for help.

He said Bratchley found a large air pocket to stay in. Sorenson described it as "remarkably big."

"I could've gotten to him sooner, but I was looking at every nook and cranny looking for a body. … I popped up off the surface and he was right in front of me. He said, 'Thank you. Thank you. Who are you?"'

Sorenson said he found Bratchley less that 500 feet from the surface but, "When you're going through spots that are a little bit bigger than your head, its takes a long time to get to those few feet."

Bratchley was able to get himself out of the water, saving him from hypothermia.

However, experts said it was his calm, professional mental state that helped him survive.

"I gave him a play-by-play of what we were going to do. … His mental state was impeccable. [He was] a consummate professional," which Sorenson said enabled them to get out "quickly and smoothly."

Sorenson went on to explain just how important the rescue was to him and other divers.

"By the time we're called, it's always a recovery. … So when you get to be a part of that, when you have to come up with body bags all the time, and you get to send one home, it's an exceptional feeling," he said.

First published on April 18, 2019 / 5:35 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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