"We've got him and he's still alive and that's two thumbs up," Erlanger Emergency Physician Dr. David Wharton said.
Ellison's Cave has the two deepest free fall pits in the country.
"There have been more than one death in this cave, because it's so hard to get out," Dr. Wharton said.
Sunday afternoon a group of four experienced cavers were doing what's called a "pass through," meaning two entered on one side, and two on the other, to meet at the bottom. The bottom is 800 feet down.
"Trying to traverse one area and slipped fell. Fell about 30 feet, bounced and went over a section which is kind of a breakdown of the rock section and fell another 30-40 feet after that," Walker County Emergency Services Director David Ashburn said.
Doctors say his femur snapped through his skin, likely broke several ribs, and appears to have fractured his skull.
"They tried to holler at him and he wouldn't speak to them," Ashburn said.
One fellow caver made the two and a half hour climb out to get help. The other two stayed back to stop the bleeding in a move that likely saved his life.
"Probably would've bled to death. This bone is hard to break. There's an artery that runs right next to it," Dr. Wharton said.
Hamilton County Cave & Cliff Rescue Team Paramedic Andrew Voss was one of the first to climb down to him.
"We get there and kind of get him stabilized and figure out what we're going to need actually, where he is in the cave and what obstacles are going to be really hard to get by," Voss said.
As crews from across the southeast worked to get him out, they gave him a blood transfusion in the cave.
"They took, to a large extent, the emergency room to him and that's why he's in the condition to the level he is right now surviving in this," Ashburn said.
Crews developed several haul systems to pull him out. Around 22 hours later, he was flown to Erlanger in critical condition and mentally unstable, but alive.
We're told his wife, Jill Kempf, flew down from Pennsylvania and is with him at Erlanger as he recovers.
She said in a statement he is doing as well as can be expected and is in critical but stable condition.
"Dwight's slip was a fluke but also turned out to be an example of how everything works the way it's supposed to. Without [the cavers] and the rescue/medical teams, Dwight would not have made it out alive," says Kempf.
Wednesday, August 20 2014 12:47 AM EDT2014-08-20 04:47:23 GMT
The nation's largest private prison company, Corrections Corp. of America, has paid more than $8 million in back wages and benefits to current and former employees guarding federal inmates at a prison in...More >>
The nation's largest private prison company, Corrections Corp. of America, has paid more than $8 million in back wages and benefits to current and former employees guarding federal inmates at a prison in California...More >>