SAN DIEGO — A woman was saved by search and rescue crews after she spent 16 hours stuck in an East County cave, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office.

Crews were called to the “Thunder Canyon Caves” area, which is located near McCain Valley Road in the Boulevard neighborhood, just before 6 p.m. on Saturday, SDSO Lt. Jeffery Ford said in a release.

According to Ford, the woman was traversing a narrow opening with a cave in the system when she got stuck in a gap roughly 12 inches wide. Friends that she was traveling with attempted to dislodge her with no success, prompting them to call for help.

Deputies with the Sheriff’s Rural Division and volunteers with the SDSO Search and Rescue Division responded to the scene. Mutual aid from the state Office of Emergency Services and a cave rescue team with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office were also requested.

It took several hours for first responders to hike into the caves and inch their equipment through the narrow passageways, Ford said. Crews periodically checked on the woman and kept her warm with blankets to prevent hypothermia.

Rescuers were able to pull the woman out of the cave around 10 a.m. on Sunday. According to SDSO, they used roping mechanisms to extricate the woman from the opening.

From there, SDSO’s ASTREA helicopter airlifted the woman to a safe area where an ambulance treated her for minor injuries, including exhaustion, scrapes and bruises.

While the woman is expected to make a full recovery, SDSO officials encourage people to take precaution when caving, offering these safety tips:

  • Never go caving alone.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Stay on the trail if one exists.
  • Pay attention on your route.
  • Watch out for tight crevices, low ceiling, uneven footing and other hazards.
  • Wear proper clothing and shoes.
  • Bring light sources.
  • Even though there is no cell service in a cave, it is important to take a fully charged phone so you can call for help as soon as you are outside.