Eyewitness News Reporter
ORME, TENNESSEE (WRCB) -- Rescue crews say Richard Hartman had no business climbing inside a dangerous cave in Orme, Tennessee. Now, many in the tiny town want the cave sealed shut before someone gets seriously hurt.
It took rescue crews three hours to reach Hartman. He was 40 feet inside one of the deepest, steepest caves in Marion County.
"These right here didn't have no hard helmets, or nothing," explained James Dirdee. "Most of the time they have helmets and stuff like that, but they just heard about the cave and said, 'Lets go explore!"
It's an exploration, Dirdee tells us could have turned deadly. Four of his friends from Bridgeport, Alabama, decided to go where few people have been before.... deep inside a watershed cave on Orme Mountain.
Dirdee added, "I wouldn't have done it, if they had asked me. I would have said no, you dont need to do it."
Rescue workers say the young cavers weren't experienced or prepared. Armed only with fading flashlights and a thin rope, they descended 40 feet inside the vertical cave. Three of them climbed out on their own, but Hartman struggled to retrace his steps.
"They said his arms give out," Dirdee told Eyewitness News. "He just couldn't pull himself out. They said he weighed probably 150 or so pounds, something like that."
"This is the first group that I've ever known to go up there and get gutsy enough to get stuck," Paul Hoover told Eyewitness News.
Hoover watched as experienced cavers pulled Hartman to safety, a task he knows wasn't easy.
Hoover said, "Its only a matter of time before the water wears something away so badly, you just bump it. It's all just gonna fall in somewhere."
That's why Hoover wants to see the cave closed permanently, because the next gutsy person might not be so lucky.
"It is dangerous," added Hoover. "You don't know when it's gonna cave in."