Ask Lukas Cavar, and he will likely tell you he’s just happy to be alive. But the Indiana University freshman’s recent life-threatening ordeal has a lot of people — parents, students, and media — asking some very serious questions about a recent college trip.
Cavar was part of a group of amateur spelunkers who headed out on an adventure as part of the college’s Caving Club. Thirteen students left to explore a cave about ten miles south of Bloomington, where the university is located.
Sometime during the trip, Cavar was separated from the group and became lost. He spent the next 60 hours locked inside a cave with no help and no way to call for aid. Apparently, after losing track of Cavar, the other Caving Club members left, returning back to campus. But, before they did, they locked up the gate at the cave entrance and closed it tight.
That was the situation Cavar discovered when he finally found his way out of the cave and tried to exit the system. He found the exit, but there was still no way out. Cavar first tried his cell phone but had no service. Since he couldn’t get a signal, he tried yelling for help, hoping to catch the attention of any passing drivers on a nearby road. He told the press:
“I took me a little while to wrangle my emotions and sort of approach things analytically, sensibly, to come up with a game plan to survive…”
Once Cavar found the locked gate, he tried picking the lock with a paperclip, but had no success. Finally, resigned that he would have to wait it out until he was missed, trusting his club would come back for him. Cavar did his best to find water in the cave, even licking the walls to stay hydrated.
Cavar’s parents, who also happen to be Indiana University professors, filed a missing person’s report with university police, then spoke to some of his friends and members of the Caving Club. Two club leaders returned to the cave to find Cavar sleeping just inside the gate.
After the incident, some are calling into question both the club’s and the university’s “rigorous” protocols for ensuring student safety. Some have said a simple headcount could have avoided this entire incident. Club leaders admitted their mistake, saying: “We had a failure in our leadership to closely follow all safety procedures…”
That, Cavar might think, is putting it mildly.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.