An explorer who fell down a shaft in a popular Blount County cave was rescued after a lengthy operation by three fire department crews.

The male caver, who has not yet been identified, was stuck in Bryant Cave near Smoke Rise when he fell down a vertical passageway.

Capt. Kyle Ellison of the West Blount Fire Department said the man fell about 50 feet into the hole and could not get out. "He was about a quarter mile or so into the cave," Ellison said.

Technical rescue crews from West Blount, Mt. High and Ricetown fire departments responded to the call, as did Air Evac helicopter service and Blount EMS. About 15-20 first responders worked the incident, Ellison said.

The call for crews went out at about 8:30 p.m., and the extraction took between two and a half to three hours. Everyone was out of the cave by midnight.

Ellison said the caver's injuries were still being evaluated by paramedics as of midnight.

It's not the first time this cave has been in the news. In 2009, a 45-year-old youth minister fell into a 20-foot hole and had to be rescued by three fire departments; the minister suffered head injuries that were not life threatening.

In 2000, the cave was the focal point of what turned out to be a hoax, which was perpetrated by a teenage girl from Graysville. According to an Associated Press report. the girl told Hoover Police that she had been abducted from a shopping center there and taken to the cave by two men.

The girl was later found in Bryant Cave by rescue teams, using then-new cellular phone tracking technology. The whole episode was then found to be a hoax by Blount County Chief Investigator David Standridge; he went on to become the county's commission president and probate judge, and now represents much of the county in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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