John Edward Jones, a 26-year-old medical student as well as a family man, who used to love spelunking with his friends and family, ended up with a horrible fate during their caving expedition into the Nutty Putty Cave.
Since John was 4, he had spent most of his free time exploring caves and more than once acted as a trapped victim for Utah Cave Rescue, a group his father helped found. At 6-foot-1 he’s taller than most cavers, yet was whip-thin, flexible and seemingly immune to claustrophobia. But that fateful day wasn’t in his side.
The Nutty Putty Cave And John Jone’s Love For Caving:
Currently owned by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, and managed by the Utah Timpanogos Grotto, the Nutty Putty cave is located in Utah County, Utah, United States. It was first explored in 1960 by Dale Green.
When John Jones and his younger brother Josh were kids, their father frequently took them on caving expeditions in Utah, and they were raised in exploring the underground depths with the love of its dark beauty.
Now at the age of 26, John was in the prime of his life, who was married and was attending medical school in Virginia at the same time. Eventually, he had come home to Utah with his wife Emily and 13-months-old daughter for the Thanksgiving holiday and to share the good news that another baby is expected next June.
A few years were spent since John didn’t go on any caving expedition and it was his relaxing holiday time with his family, therefore, he decided to go on his first expedition into the Nutty Putty Cave to experience another new level of adventure in his life. This was a hydrothermal cave located south-west of Utah Lake and about 55 miles from Salt Lake City.
What Happened On That Day In The Nutty Putty Cave?
It was around 8 p.m. on the evening of November 24, 2009, when John Jones and his younger brother Josh Jones along with their nine other friends and family members entered the Nutty Putty Cave, deciding to explore the cave as a way to connect with each other ahead of the holiday. Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan.
About an hour into the expedition, John found a narrow cave and supposed it to be the popular Nutty Putty Cave formation known as the Birth Canal, a tight dreadful passage that cavers must crawl through carefully. With his intense curiosity, he inched his way into the cave’s tunnel system head first, moving forward using his other body parts. As he went further and further into the narrow passage, he eventually ended up getting stuck and he realised he’d made a grave mistake.
It had been years since John was in any cave, he was now six feet tall and 200 pounds and his childhood experience couldn’t compete with this unexpected situation. He had to try to press forward but he was unable to do so because space was barely 10 inches across and 18 inches high which was even too small to normally breathe in for John.
Josh was the first who discovered John as trapped headfirst in a vertical shaft. And he could see only his feet that were out of the narrow passage. Josh tried to get him out but John slid down into the shaft even further and worse comes to worst. His arms were now pinned beneath his chest and he couldn’t move at all. After that, they called for help.
The Utmost Efforts To Rescue John Jones From The Nutty Putty Cave:
Although the rescuers had come as soon as possible, it took a few hours to get people, equipment, and supplies down 400 feet into the cave and 150 feet below the Earth’s surface where John was still trapped upside down.
It was about 12:30 a.m. on November 25, when the first rescuer, Susie Motola reached the point and introduced herself to John. Though she could see of him was a pair of shoes.
“Hi Susie, thanks for coming,” John said, “but I really, really want to get out.”
Over the next 24 hours, dozens of rescuers gave their utmost efforts to free John. They even used a system of pulleys and ropes in trying to get him out from the tight spot but due to the unusual angles of the cave, it seemed impossible to do without breaking his legs in the process, which would be more inhumane.
However, they once managed to get him unstuck and lift him a few feet out of the passage until a cord snapped without a warning and he fell back in again.
The rope-and-pulley operation was now completely failed and there was no other viable plan to get him out at the moment. But they stayed connected with him all the time, and at a point, they sang songs to keep him awake.
With no hope of rescue and his heart having suffered due to his downward position for a long time, in this condition blood can’t be pumped up to the whole body thoroughly, and his lungs were also not working properly. Because of these, the rescuers only could do for John was feed an injection drip into his leg which contained drugs to calm him down.
The Tragic Death Of John Jones In Nutty Putty Cave:
After 27 hours stuck in the upside down position, John eventually was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest and suffocation shortly before midnight on the evening of November 25, 2009. His family thanked rescuers for their best efforts even despite the tragic news.
Here’s Why Utah’s Nutty Putty Cave Is Sealed Up Now?
Even after John Jones’ tragic death, it was very difficult to get his body out of the cave, and finally, his family and the land-owner agreed to seal the Nutty Putty Cave off with his body still inside. The cave is sealed up using concrete so that no one else could suffer the same claustrophobic fate again. Now, many call this cave the “John Jones Cave” out of their love and respect for the dead spelunker John Edward Jones.
Did Nutty Putty Cave Have Any Dark Past?
Though Nutty Putty Cave attracted yealy thousands of visitors from everywhere who were fascinated with caving, John Jones was the only fatality.
However, many experienced cavers insist that the narrow entrance with even more cramped and twisty passages of the Nutty Putty cave make itself very hard for them spelunking inside.
Another notable incident that happened in the Nutty Putty cave in 2004, before John Jones’ death. At that time, two Boy Scouts had almost lost their lives near the same location where John died later. Both Boy Scouts ended up trapped within a week of each other, and it took rescuers over 14 hours to rescue one of them.
The Last Descent – A Non-Fiction Movie Based On The Nutty Putty Cave Tragedy:
In 2016, filmmaker Isaac Halasima produced and directed a full-length feature movie titled “The Last Descent” (see below) documenting about the life and failed rescue of John Edward Jones. It gives you an accurate glimpse of John’s ordeal and what it feels like to be trapped in the most narrow of cave passageways when claustrophobia and then hopelessness set in.
After reading the tragic story of John Edward Jones, read about The Extreme Diver Dave Shaw Who Died Recovering Deon Dreyer’s Remains From Bushman’s Hole.