Indiana man locked in cave for 60 hours, forgotten by group

JEJU, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 07: A view of the Manjanggul Cave on November 7, 2015 in Jeju, South Korea. The Manjanggul Cave is a lava tunnel, listed as the UNESCO World Heritage site for its variety of lava structures. Out of the entire 13.4 km Manjanggul Cave, only 1 km is open to the public. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — A 19-year-old man who spent 60 hours locked alone inside a gated southern Indiana cave says he feels lucky to be alive.

Indiana University freshman Lukas Cavar was on a spelunking trip to Sullivan Cave about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Bloomington when he became separated Sunday afternoon from 12 other members of the university’s Caving Club.

When he eventually reached the cave entrance, Cavar found club members had padlocked its gate, unaware that he remained inside. He couldn’t get a cellphone signal and screamed for hours, hoping motorists passing on a nearby road might hear him.

“It took me a little while to wrangle my emotions and sort of approach things analytically, sensibly, to come up with a game plan to survive,” Cavar said Thursday, two days after his rescue.

The Bloomington man, whose parents are Indiana University linguistics professors, tried picking the padlock with a paper clip to no avail.

Dressed in light clothes, hiking boots and a helmet, Cavar had a plastic bag, two energy bar wrappers, two empty water bottles, a cellphone and a wallet. He used the energy bar wrappers to collect moisture and the water bottles to collect rainfall and puddled cave water.

Cavar also licked the cave’s damp walls to quench his thirst. Hunger drove him to consider foraging for cave crickets, although he didn’t eat any of the small insects.

After his parents filed a missing person report with university police, a high school friend informed the Caving Club’s president that Cavar was missing.

Two club leaders immediately returned to the cave late Tuesday after finding a pile of clothing in a vehicle club members used to travel Sunday to the cave. They discovered Cavar uninjured and asleep behind the locked gate.

“I’m really glad to be alive. It feels like I’ve been given a second chance,” said Cavar, who returned to classes Thursday and has no plans for another spelunking trip.

A message posted by the Caving Club’s president on a website for Indiana University student organizations says the club’s “rigorous protocols” for accounting for members during cave excursions had failed.

“We had a failure in our leadership to closely follow all these safety procedures,” the message states. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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