The story of John Jones Cave (A full account)

In this brief guide we will look at the story about John Jones Cave, and how this tragic situation unfolded.

The Story of John Jones and Nutty Putty Cave

John Jones was an average 26 year old married guy who went caving in the Nutty Putty cave in Utah on November 24th 2009 with his family and friends, but tragically got stuck and eventually died in the cave.

The story of John Jones getting stuck in the Nutty Putty cave is one of the most horrifying stories about spelunking and is sure to chill your bones even if you don’t have claustrophobia, which many people have said online in discussions about the episode, because it reminds us why human beings avoid dark and dangerous situations usually.

John Jones was no stranger to exploring caves, he had gone with his father and brother many times before, as a child, and exploration of caves was a well-liked activity in his family in general.

Right before the thanksgiving holiday in November 2009, the Jones family decided to take a trip to one of the nearby cave systems, known as the Nutty Putty cave, as a way of spending time with each other, and this huge group decided to explore this cave because they never had before.

While the family started together, soon after the start John Jones and his brother Josh Jones went a little ahead, and they found themselves in a slightly narrower part of the cave, where John Jones broke off a little further and headed down the crevasse that was at a tapered angle from the rest of the cave system.

When John realized that it was too narrow for him to turn back he decided to go a little forward because he felt that the chamber in front of him was a drop to a more open space where he would ideally have enough space to maneuver and turn back around, so he could head on up again.

At this point, John Jones was crawling head first into a cave that was essentially getting narrower and more perpendicular to the ground, which meant that there came a point where he was at an almost 90 degree angle in the cave, and it was so narrow that he was held between the columns of the cave.

John Jones felt in this part of the cave that he would perhaps not be able to move forward unless he sucked his chest in a bit, or perhaps he did it instinctively, it is not known, but rescuers believe that his sucking his chest in at this point was the reason he went farther than he could have had he not done so, and right after that, when his chest expanded again because of his natural breathing rhythm, he got stuck.

The reason this happened was because having his chest sucked in caused him to go into an even narrower portion of the cave, and because of this he was jammed at a point where he could not possibly go forward from and could not come back out either.

Rescuers and people with knowledge of the area also said that even if John Jones could have gone forward into the cave it could not have mattered, as there wasn’t nearly enough space even further to do what John had been wanting to do, and he was going to be stuck either way because the chamber closed off after the point where he was at.

John Jones Cave Incident

John Edward Jones entered the Nutty Putty Cave at around 8 p.m. local time on the evening of Nov. 24, 2009, as a means of spending some time with his family right before Thanksgiving doing something they had always loved doing. 

John Jones was 26 at the time of the incident, and he had a wife, Emily, a daughter of 1 year, Elizabeth, and a son on the way that would have been born in June 2020.

John Jones was accompanied by various family members and friends, in particular, Josh Jones who was 23, his brother, and nine other friends and family members, and they had decided to explore Nutty Putty Cave as a way to connect with each other ahead of the holiday.

At the time of the Nutty Putty cave incident John Jones was attending medical school in Virginia and this 6 foot guy was in the prime of his life, no doubt, with a beautiful family and promising career ahead of him.

About an hour into the caving expedition, John Jones decided to find the Nutty Putty Cave formation known as the Birth Canal, which is a tight passage that spelunkers must crawl through carefully and in addition to being extremely narrow and slippery, it is also extremely perpendicular to the ground, meaning that the person needs to go headfirst towards gravity, the opposite of what the human body is meant to do.

John Jones was in a part of the Nutty Putty Cave system that he thought was the Birth Canal and he inched his way into the narrow passage head first, moving forward using his hips, stomach, and fingers but he realized he’d made a grave mistake when he found the passage getting narrower and not giving way like the Birth Canal should have been.

John Jones would have turned back at this stage of his cave exploration when he realized that he wasn’t in the right branch of the cave, but the problem was that it was too narrow to  even wriggle back out the way he’d come which meant that he had to try to press forward because he thought that there was a widening of the crevasse in front of him which would allow him enough space to twist and turn and come back out.

John Jones tried to move forward by exhaling the air in his chest so that he could fit through a space that was barely 10 inches across and 18 inches high, about the size of the opening of a clothes dryer but when John inhaled again and his chest puffed back out, he got stuck for good.

John’s brother Josh found him soon after he had gotten stuck, and he tried to figure out some way to get his brother out, but to no avail, because the space was too narrow for Josh himself to do any significant pulling on his own as well, and even though Josh tried to pull at his brother’s calves John just slid down into the passage even further, because the Nutty Putty cave is extremely slippery.

The mud and rocks in Nutty Putty cave are slippery so when his brother tried to move him he was trapped worse than before, and worse still, his arms were pinned beneath his chest and he couldn’t move at all.

John and Josh prayed at this point of the cave ordeal, and John said “Guide us as we work through this, Save me for my wife and kids.

By midnight of the same day rescuers had started to arrive, and the person who was leading the rescue team, Susie Motola, reached out to John Jones in the cave soon after.

Susie Motola arrived at the cave at about 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 25 and at that time John had been trapped for three and a half hours. Motola introduced herself to John, even though all she could see of him was a pair of navy and black running shoes, to which John responded, faint and distant, “Hi Susie, thanks for coming,” John said, “but I really, really want to get out.”

John Jones Cave Rescue

After this introduction began the process of rescuing John Jones from the Nutty Putty Cave, but even after about 28 hours of effort nothing could be done.

There came a point where it did seem like the pulley system they were using was about to work, and as they pulled John through the pulley it did seem like he moved a bit, but then his feet hit the ceiling above them as his body moved upward leading to the horrific realization that if they were to get him out, they would have to bend his legs in a way that would break them, and in doing so there would be a shock to his body that would likely either kill him or make any rescue even more impossible.

With this realization it was becoming more and more evident that it would probably not be possible to get him out in time, because even as all these processes were happening, John Jones’s body was going through massive cardiovascular stress because he was stuck upside down.

When the human body is stuck upside down for long periods of time, the heart has to work overtime to pump blood right, and especially to keep it moving away from the brain and lungs, where it tends to pool in this posture.

Because John Jones was stuck in the cave for so long, his heart was working far too much and he was quickly getting sicker and sicker because of the posture, and so sometime after midnight of November 25th, John Jones stopped responding, and it was ascertained that he had suffered from a cardiac arrest.

John Jones Cave Memorial

After his death, it was decided that it would still be far too difficult to get John Jones’ body out of the Nutty Putty Cave, because he was still stuck at the bad angle and now that he would not be able to respond to any efforts it was even more unlikely that he could come out.

Therefore a decision was made to fill up the cave with his body inside and seal the mouth of the cave with concrete to make a memorial or burial site for him, so that the family would have the kind of closure they would have had from a grave.

The Nutty Putty cave has therefore been closed since the John Jones incident and a plaque has been put up at the sealed mouth of the cave in his memory.

Conclusion

In this brief guide we looked at the story about John Jones Cave, and how this tragic situation unfolded.

The story of John Jones getting stuck in the cave is one that people will use as a cautionary tale for ages to come, and it shows just how difficult and dangerous spelunking can be sometimes.

While it is great to engage in things you share with your family and do the things you used to do all the time, it is important to keep taking the precautions that come with the hobby, because a very grave mistake on the part of John Jones in the Nutty Putty cave took his life and ended in great tragedy for him and his family.

If you have any questions or comments about John Jones cave please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): John Jones Cave

How did John Jones get stuck?

John Jones got stuck in the cave likely because he sucked in his chest to investigate the fissure he was crawling through and he slid his torso over a lip of rock and down into the 10-inch-wide side of the crevice. 

The problem happened when Jones expanded his chest again as he breathed, and in doing so Jones got stuck. 

When John Jones felt himself getting stuck he struggled to free himself, and that only made John slide deeper into the narrower, 8 1/2-inch-wide side of the fissure.

Could John Jones have been saved?

According to rescuers, John Jones could not have been saved because the angle at which he was stuck and the kind of cave he was in made it impossible to get him out.

There was an almost successful attempt to save John Jones, when the pulley system that was being used actually started to give up and he moved a little, but because the cave was so slippery he slid and got stuck again.

Is Nutty Putty cave closed?

Yes, the Nutty Putty cave is closed, it was sealed off right after the death of John Jones who was trapped inside.

The body of John Jones  is also still inside the Nutty putty cave because the operation that would have been required to get his body would likely have endangered even more people, and therefore led to more injuries or even deaths, which is why the decision was taken to seal off the cave with him inside.

How deep is the Nutty Putty cave?

The Nutty putty cave is 120 feet deep.

Citations

https://www.deseret.com/2014/11/24/20553477/five-years-after-tragedy-nutty-putty-cave-remains-sealed

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutty_Putty_Cave

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Sara Quitlag is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.