ST. PAUL (KMSP) - Two teens were rescued from a system of caves in St. Paul on Saturday morning, after an evening of exploration went awry.
Around 1:30 a.m. St. Paul fire department responded to a report of two young men stuck at the base of a bluff on the city’s west-side. The caller was a friend of the men, who had decided last-minute not to join them in the descent.
Upon arrival, rescue crews noticed the situation was more serious than originally conveyed, when the man who called directed them to a “tube-like opening.” The opening allowed the men to gain access to a cave roughly 100 feet below the entrance point.
The rescue took over two and a half hours.
“Accessing these caves is dangerous and illegal,” said a report from the St. Paul fire department. The department called this incident “extremely fortunate” that the men were found alive, and they had a friend who called 911.
This is not the first scare rescue teams in St. Paul have had to rescue self-proclaimed “explorers” from the caves.
Most recently, in April of 2004, three teenagers died from carbon monoxide poisoning and passing out in the Wabasha caves, behind the Minnesota Agriculture building.
Of the group of five, one teen woke up and was able to escape the cave, and alert authorities. One was resuscitated on the way to the hospital, and three never woke up.
According to reports at the time, the carbon monoxide levels in the caves reached 750 parts per million, enough to kill a person within two hours, with little-to-no warning.
“One of the people who was in there was a girl. She passed out, I tried carrying her on my shoulders,” said Jay Boucher, a teen who made it out alive in 2004. He was 19 at the time. “I couldn’t make it. I was unconscious. I woke up trying to find some way to get out.”
Boucher told police he stumbled around in the darkness for a while before seeing the light coming through a hole. The other four teenagers were found unconscious 600 feet from the cave entrance.
All of the teens that died were 17 years old, and students at Cedar School in Eagan.
The deaths in the St. Paul cave systems don’t stop there. In 1992 two 17-year-old girls died in the same cave system. Since the late 1980’s three others have died: one from drowning, one from a fire and one in a cave collapse.
Since these deaths, St. Paul police and fire departments have warned against going into the caves. After the 2004 incident, the entrance to the Wabasha caves was sealed.
St. Paul police say the caves have always been attractive to curious youth. Their vivid histories are those of 1930's nightclubs, and popular spots for mobsters to do their business.
The sandstone walls are easy to dig through and manipulate around previous attempts by the city to board up the entrances.