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Veteran Utah cave diver keeping close watch on Thailand, says same could happen here

Posted at 10:05 PM, Jul 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-07 00:10:32-04

LOGAN, Utah -- A certified cave diver in Utah is keeping a close eye on the rescue in Thailand as hundreds work to get 12 boys on a soccer team and their coach out of a cave that is miles long.

He says Utah has a very similar cave that highlights how dangerous this rescue is.

“We discovered this cave and we began to explore it,” said Wendell Nope showing video of him navigating a cave hidden in Logan Canyon.

Nope says if a professional diver saw this video, “They might look at the Utah cave and say 'Oh is that the passage way in the Thailand cave?'”

A cave the whole world is watching as hundreds of the best divers work to rescue the boys and their 25-year-old coach.

“It's heartbreaking to see that situation and know how challenging the environment is these rescuers are working in,” Nope said.

One rescuer lost his life Thursday as he was on his way out of the cave after dropping off oxygen tanks.

“It tore at my heart because I know what they were trying to do, I understand the efforts they were making, it is so noble what they're doing,” Nope said.

Nope says the cave in Utah is a good example of the type of challenge they’re experiencing in Thailand. The narrow, deep, winding caverns are very similar geographically and both have the danger of water.

“The cave in Thailand becomes flooded with monsoon water, our cave becomes flooded through snowmelt water,” Nope said.

But the Thailand cave is much bigger and the visibility during monsoon season is only a few feet. As oxygen levels are dropping, rescue teams are considering having the boys make the five hour dive out but experts like Nope worry it’s too dangerous.

“Being in that murky water for an extended period of time is challenging and unsettling for experienced divers much less children who some don't even know how to swim yet,” Nope said.

He hopes that is a last resort.

“Anxiety and sadness for their circumstance,” Nope said.

Because even while he's cave diving here in Utah the expert has had close calls.

Nope says he has faith in his diving colleagues on the scene in Thailand.

As for those in Utah, he wants to remind everyone to make sure you know what you're getting into before you go exploring.