Thai rescue team diver trapped in Jackson Co. cave rescued

Posted at 12:29 PM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 23:34:48-04

GAINESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — A trapped diver from the United Kingdom has been safely rescued Wednesday evening in Jackson County.

Josh Bratchley was rescued just before 7 p.m. at the Mill Pond Cave in Gainesboro. Bratchley was evaluated by medical crews on scene and refused medical treatment.

Bratchley was one of the rescue divers who saved a Thailand Soccer team from a cave last year.

Around 1 a.m. Wednesday, Jackson County 911 received a call about an unaccounted-for man in the area of Mill Pond Cave at Flynn's Lick of Gainesboro.

He was part of a small group of divers from the United Kingdom who had been exploring the Mill Pond Cave for the past few days.

When the tourists returned from a dive around 3 p.m. Tuesday, they could not find Bratchley. They attempted another dive to find their missing friend prior to calling 911, but it was unsuccessful.

Ed Sorenson, a diver from Florida, found Bratchley. He explained the rescue during a press conference.

It's sill 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.

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

Josh likely 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.'"

The diver said he found Bratchley less that 500 feet from the surface, but said "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, a consummate professional," which Sorenson said allowed 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 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.