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Carol Perkins: 1953 Metcalfe Cave rescue gripped state, nation

Angelo Fancher, Principal at Center High School, was pinned in a cave off KY 70 near Sulphur-Well for seven life changing hours. Everyone who could help or thought they could came to help. It took the help of the Chief Ranger at the National Park Service at Mammoth to come in with the equipment needed to extricate Mr. Fancher, who never was able to walk again, but he continued educating the young people of the county as the homebound teacher. It's been some 65 years ago, but the story will never be forgotten. It was the major topic for many th as they were glued to Tv screens watching the news from Thailand. Click on headline for complete column
Next earlier Carol Perkins column: Carol Perkins: Mr. Perkins has become a tomato farmer

By Carol Perkins

The recent event in Thailand concerning the twelve boys and their soccer coach made me rethink what is important. I wondered how the parents sitting outside that cave, praying and crying, kept their sanity without knowing. Not knowing if there was life inside or death. The enormous turnout to help showed the goodness in mankind. This situation took me back to 1953 when Metcalfe County faced such a situation and how volunteers showed up in droves.

In a cave located just off highway 70, Angelo Fancher, principal of Center High School at the time, and a student, Tommy Jeffries, decided to explore a local cave, which they and other students were accustomed to doing. According to an article in the Edmonton Herald-New, Mr. Fancher stopped on the way out to chip off a piece of stalactite and the force of the removal caused two jumbled rocks along the sides to fall, pinning Mr. Fancher in the cave for seven hours.

Tommy, who was on the outside, roused neighbors and soon many arrived. When it was clear that no one could move the rocks without equipment, the chief ranger for the National Park Service at Mammoth Cave took over the operation bringing in shoring materials, rigging lights, supervising supplies, and by using hydraulic lifts and shoring blocks, Austin and Henry Poynter were able to free him. Both Dr. Dunham and Dr. Emberton were on the spot, as well as locals who crawled back as far as possible to provide food and water.

The news reached national level with reporters from statewide outlets on the spot. Mr. Fancher was removed from the cave after seven painful hours and was first sent to Bowling Green and later taken to Vanderbilt where his wife Mary never left his side. The outcome for Mr. Fancher was bleak, but he was a strong man and a fighter.

Mr Fancher never walked again but continued educating the young people of the county as their homebound teacher. Nobody will ever forget this event in our county, especially all those who helped with the rescue and, of course, his children, Glyna Mae, Marilyn, and Michael.

When our son and his neighbor friend went "down the woods" to explore, I warned him to stay out of the cave that runs through the city. Vowing to listen to me with his fingers crossed, he came home wet and dirty. When the grandchildren came to visit, they, too, wanted to explore the hillside behind the house. I, once again, told them to stay out of the cave. They, too, came home wet and dirty, but one of them told the tale. "The water was almost to Noah's head." I cringed.

Those who explore caves, no matter how skilled, are taking a risk. I am not a risk taker so I am the one standing in the yard saying, "Stay away from that cave." It is a good thing the world is not made up of people like me for had it not been for the experts, those boys would not have been rescued nor would Mr. Fancher have been. We never know what will happen at any given moment and that is a good thing. - Carol Perkins

This story was posted on 2018-07-12 09:53:56
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