ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - Rescuers worked through the night and said
the extraction of a 14-year-old Boy Scout who fell off a ledge in a
cave near Fort Stanton would likely take most of Friday.
Reilly Walker, of Corona, fell Thursday afternoon while hiking
in the cave with fellow members Boy Scouts. His family moved to New
Mexico from Massachusetts last week, said Hans Stuart, chief of
external affairs for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The cave
is on BLM land.
The teen suffered a laceration to the leg, but rescuers were not
sure if it was broken, Stuart said.
"They put his leg in a splint and they've got him all set and
ready to go," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated
Press from the mouth of the cave early Friday morning. "They're
going to put him on a skid and have to lift him up and down very
carefully. It's going to be a time consuming operation."
Stuart estimated just after midnight Friday that the operation
to bring Walker about a mile and a half out of the cave could take
up to 20 hours.
Walker fell about 15 feet at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday. A fellow
Boy Scout stayed with him and helped to calm him when he panicked
while others went for help, Stuart said.
"He's doing fine," Stuart said of Walker. "He's in good
spirits."
The boy's father, Steven Walker, was at the scene awaiting his
son's rescue.
One of the major obstacles in the rescue is the cave's low
ceiling.
"You have to crawl or scooch down in many places," Stuart told
the Roswell Daily Record Thursday. "In some places it only has a
two-foot clearance. That's the challenge."
The Fort Stanton cave, about 15 miles northeast of Ruidoso and a
mile southeast of the fort, is third-longest in the state, Stuart
said.
Walker is a member of Boy Scout Troop 108 from Estancia. The
troop camped with other troops in the area this week. A group of
the scouts went into the cave exploring Thursday, Stuart said. A
police officer was one of the adults with the group and climbed out
to call for help.
"It took him a full hour to get out, and he was hurrying,"
Stuart said.
Cavers and volunteers gathered at the cave to assist with the
rescue, Stuart said, adding that more than 20 were already in the
cave rigging the ropes.
Exploration of the cave is restricted, but Stuart said the Boy
Scouts had obtained the proper permits.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)