NJ man rescued from Turkish cave following week-long international effort

After over a week of some dark, cold days sick and shuttered in a cave in Turkey, finally, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Mark Dickey.

News of his rescue prompted a huge sigh of relief from Gretchen Baker, who's known the 40-year-old experienced caver, who once instructed those to do the job that would ultimately save his life.

"The relief just floods through you. You hear that good news, like he made it," Baker told FOX 5 NY just moments after his rescue.


Rescue operation of NJ explorer trapped in Turkish cave could soon start

Mark Dickey became suddenly ill with stomach bleeding during an expedition with a handful of others in the Morca cave in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains.

Baker spoke for the New Jersey-based scientist, who became extremely ill back on Sept. 2 1,040 meters deep in Morca cave in Southern Turkey. He was on an expedition to map the country's third-deepest cave.

"I think Mark would be saying thank you," Baker said. "He has been a cave rescue instructor for the international cave rescue commission for 10 years. He has ridden in the litter for practice sessions but never this long."

"Being able to communicate that to the parents and know it was real, yeah it was a great relief to everybody involved," added Carl Heitmeyer, a member of the New Jersey Original Response Team.

Just a day after the 3rd, a team from the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service arrived in the Morca area with a doctor to descend into the cave to the deep camp, arriving many hours later, to set up a tent where they'd provide intensive medical care to Dickey.

More days came, and more crews came with them, some from Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, Croatia, Poland, as well as individuals from the U.S., dividing the cave into seven sections, for each international team to work.

"It happened faster than I thought which is amazing. It really shows how talented this cave rescuers are," Baker reacted.

Meanwhile, medical personnel worked to stabilize Dickey, so he was ready for transport and on Sept. 9, Dickey regained just enough strength to get moving out of the cave in a litter from camp to camp, where he received medical treatment at each one.

"They had several sections of the cave that were really tight, like this where they had to get it moving slowly through those really tight spots," Baker added.

"Day after day, no matter what the obstacles they encountered along the way, they made it happen," Heithmeyer said.

They made the seemingly impossible a possibility and after a 57-hour climb back to the surface, the rescue became a closed chapter with a happy ending, a story that'll be told for the rest of Dickey's life.

"I hope he was able to crack a joke or two along the way," Baker said. "Mark sure likes to have a positive outlook. Even though he was suffering, I think he may have found a little levity here and there in the whole idea of getting out of the cave."

Dickey’s parents shared this statement in response to his rescue:

The fact that our son, Mark Dickey, has been moved out of Morca Cave in stable condition is indescribably relieving and fills us with incredible joy. It is, we know, an event that all involved in the extensive rescue effort worked so significantly hard for. Mark is strong and we believe in his strength, but fully knew that he was in dire need of tremendous and immediate support. We are so very thankful and grateful that the support he needed was given to him and that the first medical rescue team to arrive reached him when they did. 

It has been a tremendous out-pouring of help from the international caving community, including cave rescuers and doctors working on-site and those significantly contributing to the rescue effort off-site. We are also appreciative of the support from the Turkish government and for knowing that Jessica, Mark’s fiancé and fellow caver, has been there with him. 

The international caving community has made it possible for Mark to leave Morca cave and receive further medical treatment at a hospital facility. Our prayers have been, and are, being answered and it is hard to express the magnitude of thanks we have for the international caving community. All that has been done for our son means, and will always mean, so very much to us.