1990s cave rescue in Tennessee Valley similar to one in Thailand

A man was rescued from this cave on Nickajack Lake in August 1990. (Image: WTVC)

The story of 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued in Chiang Rai, Thailand seems to be nothing short of a miracle.

Buddy Lane, the Assistant Chief of Hamilton County Rescue Services, says it reminds him of a similar rescue at Nickajack Cave 26 years ago.

David Gant was rescued from the cave after he dove inside with friends to spearfish.

"I found an airpocket about a foot from the ceiling to my head and I was holding on to a little stalactite," Gant told NewsChannel 9 in 1992. "This rescue here at Nickajack was a true miracle because of all the things that came together," Lane said.

He says what really saved David was an air pocket.

TVA lowered the lake level 18 inches, which gave Gant more air where he was trapped and more time for rescuers to get him out alive.

"We said are you okay and he looks at us and says are you the angels here to come and get me because he'd been there long that he was actually passing out," Lane explained.Lane says that's what makes this rescue similar to the one in Thailand where 12 boys and their coach were trapped for more nearly 3 weeks.

He says rescuers were racing the clock to get the boys out because the portion they were trapped in was running out of oxygen.

"I think it was incredibly intense I mean they had spots in there that were so tight they couldn't even keep their tanks on. That they had to drag them beside them or shove them in front of them," Lane said. Lane says he's been mesmerized by the news coverage of the rescue there.

He even wishes he could have been there to help.

Lane says he'll never forget the moment he returned Gant to his family members waiting for him outside the cave.

"There's probably 30 members of his family here all hoping and praying and thinking he'd died all that time and they see him on the boat you can't imagine the thrill and excitement they had," Lane said.

Lane said he ran into Gant recently for the first time since that cave rescue. They talked and caught up for about an hour.

Thai officials say the boys will be quarantined for at least a week while they're treated and tested for infection.

Lane also works for the Southeastern Cave Conservancy. You can read more about it here.

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