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May 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Good Luck and Bad Luck

from the May, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A Spanish cave explorer, diving in the cave system Sa Piqueta on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, was lucky to be rescued after spending 60 hours trapped in an air pocket. After suffering a cave collapse at 130 feet (40m) deep, around 3,000 feet (900m) from the cave entrance, his buddy went for help. It was Saturday, April 15, but rescuers were unable to reach him until just before midnight on Monday.

Xisco Gracia and Guillem Mascaro were exploring the cave when things went horribly wrong. Gracia, a speleologist who is a specialist in Mallorca's submarine caverns, spent most of his time in total darkness, drinking fresh water from a small lake, not knowing that Mascaro had found his way out to summon help. However, Mascaro did not know exactly where he had left his friend, because the water had become turbid. They could have tried to get out together on one diver's air supply, but that might have resulted in both divers dying. Gracia was lucky to have found an air pocket and even luckier yet that he himself was found.

Far less lucky was a Belton, TX, diver who suffered fatal injuries when she was pulled into an underwater hole by the flow of water near a dam, during the search for a missing Fort Hood soldier.

Lori Pohanka-Kalama, a member of the Morgan's Point Resort Dive Team, was aiding the search effort on April 15 when she was dragged into the underwater hole and remained trapped at the bottom of the low-water dam on House Creek. Fellow divers were able to get a rope around her and pull her out after about a 15-minute effort. She was transported to Carl R. Darnall Medical Center at Fort Hood and then to Scott & White Medical Center-Temple, where she died Sunday morning.

It was only lucky no other diver suffered the same fate during her recovery. The dive team consists of about 22 members. The city's police chief, Fred Churchill, said Monday that Pohanka-Kalama had been a member for about two years. The body of the soldier was found later. Diving near weirs and dams can be very hazardous.

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