Rescue Squad Organizer Falls 30 Feet into Sinkhole
It was near dawn on the day before Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, in 2003, when I decided to measure one of the recent sinkholes on the shore of the Dead Sea. Before taking the rescue jeep, however, I had to clear it with Noam, who was in charge that day of the Ein Gedi Rescue Team. I explained that I would be away only an hour—back by 8 a.m.
Shortly after I started measuring the sinkhole, the ground on which I stood suddenly collapsed. I fell into the hole—30 feet deep—along with heaps of rubble. The sudden falling away of the ground beneath me, the rubble that came with me and the complete darkness disoriented me. For a moment I thought I 047would be buried alive. For a split second I thought I had turned blind. Or maybe—in a flash—this is how it is in the underworld.
The first two hours were the most difficult. As I got my bearings, I examined my waist-belt; it was intact, with a camera, compass, pen and paper—and a cell phone. But then I realized: There is no cell phone reception in a sinkhole.
As the dust settled, daylight came to the bottom. Cracks in the wall were plainly visible, making it clear that it would be impossible, not to say dangerous, to try to climb out. It was clear that more layers of rubble were about to come down; I did not know when. But if it happened now, I would be underneath. I could see some menacingly huge rocks in the wall. Frantically, I started writing farewell letters to my family.
By 9:30, after two and a half hours in the hole, I had calmed down. Noam will realize I haven’t come back, he will need the jeep, and the rescue squad—which I had originally organized—will come for me.
From time to time it rains dust, and small stones come with the dust, a little like hailstones but hot and dry. Writing calms me, and I soon fill my notepaper.
Another problem: I need a toilet. I wait for a while but finally give in. Fortunately I have plenty of toilet paper.
I have run out of notepaper on which to write. Here is another use for the toilet paper: I continue writing on the toilet paper.
“I am healthy and well,” I tell myself. “My home is nearby. People will soon come looking for me and will rescue me.” I continue writing. By noon, Noam will surely start out looking for me and by five in the afternoon, I will be out.
At a quarter to three in the afternoon, I thought I heard voices. They have finally arrived. No, it is only my stomach.
A long spill of dust and small stones comes down on my right shoulder. Another collapse comes down to my left, this time more serious.
I start thinking of another possibility: Noam doesn’t need the jeep and doesn’t realize I am missing. Never mind; doesn’t matter. When my wife comes home from work at five o’clock and realizes I am not there, she will alarm the rescue squad. But I may not be rescued until the morning.
At five o’clock I stop writing, and my mood sinks with the sun. I find a new position for the night, facing the slope of the new collapse. Instead of writing, I have imaginary conversations with family and friends. I especially enjoy talks with my grandchildren.
Some time past 8:00 p.m. I hear the whirring sound of a helicopter. I can tell it is nearby. They have found the jeep. I point my camera at the helicopter in flash mode to tell them I am here.
Soon I see the beam of a powerful flashlight on the edge of the sinkhole (see photo). It is 9:30 p.m. I have been down here for more than 13 hours.
Rescuing someone from a sinkhole is dangerous business. The ground around a sinkhole can collapse at any minute, as I had experienced that very morning. There is no secure work base. But from long experience we know how to do it. We use a device that allows the rope to descend down away from the edge of the hole so when they pull me up I don’t touch the walls and cause more collapse. In two minutes I am up and no worse for wear (see photo).
Translated from the Hebrew by Gundi Shachal.
It was near dawn on the day before Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, in 2003, when I decided to measure one of the recent sinkholes on the shore of the Dead Sea. Before taking the rescue jeep, however, I had to clear it with Noam, who was in charge that day of the Ein Gedi Rescue Team. I explained that I would be away only an hour—back by 8 a.m. Shortly after I started measuring the sinkhole, the ground on which I stood suddenly collapsed. I fell into the hole—30 feet deep—along with heaps of rubble. The sudden falling […]