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4 Found Dead Underwater in Utah Cave

From Associated Press

Two women and two men were found dead Thursday in a narrow underwater passage in a spring-fed cave above Provo, officials said.

They appeared to have drowned, Lynnae Sanford, Provo police records supervisor, said Thursday, citing a preliminary report from the state medical examiner’s office.

Police identified the dead, all from Utah, as Scott K. McDonald, 28, of Provo; J. Blake Donner, 24, of Springville; Jennifer Lynn Galbraith, 21, of Pleasant Grove; and Ariel R. Singer, 18, of Orem.

“We believe they’d already been into the cavern and were on their way out when something went wrong,” said Utah County sheriff’s Lt. Dave Bennett of the search and rescue team.

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The passage is accessed through a water hole about 100 feet inside the cave, he said. All the bodies were facing the cave opening as if they had been swimming out.

Autopsies were planned.

The cave is on Y Mountain on land owned by the city of Provo.

The city on Thursday ordered the cave closed immediately with a concrete barricade, said Provo Mayor Lewis Billings.

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The cavern was reachable by a water-filled passage. Someone had reportedly tied a guide rope from a rock at the opening to wood inside the chamber.

The four friends and a fifth person, Joseph Ferguson, 26, of Reno, went to the cave about 3 a.m. Thursday, said Provo police Sgt. Mark Troxel.

Ferguson reportedly told police he had intended to enter the chamber too but changed his mind.

He waited about 45 minutes for the four to return, then began calling other friends familiar with the cave, Troxel said. Ferguson grew increasingly alarmed and called 911 about 6:30 a.m., and rescuers were sent.

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Emergency crews pumped oxygen into the cave and used sump pumps to drain about 6 inches of water from the passageway.

A rescue team from Orem that specializes in confined spaces assisted, Provo police spokeswoman Karen Mayne said, but crews were unfamiliar with the cave and its layout.

Billings said the cave was believed to be man-made, possibly an old abandoned mine.


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