John Jones Nutty Putty cave

Nutty Putty cave incident – A caver’s most painful death

John Edward Jones, a 26-year-old caver entered the Nutty Putty Cave, Utah with his brother and a few others. He wrongly entered into an uncharted, very narrow opening, and was stuck there forever!

Where is Nutty Putty cave?

Discovered in 1960, Nutty Putty Cave is outside of Salt Lake City, Utah in USA. It was a local favorite with Boy Scout troops and college students, with 5,000 visitors a year.

Why was Nutty Putty cave called that?

The cave’s first explorer, Dale Green named it Nutty Putty after the soft, brown, putty-like texture of the clay found in its passages. He originally thought of calling it “Silly Putty” (after the original product name) but later decided that “Nutty Putty” sounded better.

What is the Nutty Putty cave incident?

On November 24, 2009, John Edward Jones and his brother Josh entered the Nutty Putty Cave, Utah at 8 pm. Soon 9 more friends and acquaintances joined them, a quite large group by caving standards. It’s a big cave, and soon the group started discovering the famous and mapped areas.

After some time, John Edward, a 6 feet long guy with around 200-pound weight, mistakenly entered an uncharted opening. He entered a narrow passage and started moving inch by inch. He could perhaps see light coming from the end of the tunnel, so he kept moving despite the continuously reducing thickness of the tunnel.

Then suddenly, the squeeze made a sharp downward turn, it made his position upside down. He thought it would get wider at the bottom, but it was like a dead end for a man of his size. Now, he could neither go back nor move further!

By the time he realised his mistake, it was already too late for him. He tried to move back, but since the tunnel was going down and he was upside down, so couldn’t succeed. When trapped, he started calling for help.

John jones Nutty Putty cave rescue attempt

His brother Josh who was nearby reached first. But, he and the fellow team members couldn’t help as it was impossible to help him by ordinary measures for the fellow cavers. So, they informed the cave authorities and within a few hours help started pouring in.

By midnight, the first help came. They recognized the problem size and called for a bigger team, machines and equipment, as it was going to be a very typical operation. When the team arrived, they could only see his legs as he was upside down. First, they lubed the cave, tied John’s legs with rope and tried to pull him out and failed.

Nutty Putty cave map

Nutty Putty Cave map
Nutty Putty Cave diagram (Image Credit:

But, the problem was his position as the ceiling above his feet was very low. And it was not possible to simply drag out a six feet long person from that turn. They tried to make some space by machines, but the rocks were very hard.

Then, they installed a Pulley system and 8 men in tandem started making the effort to pull him out. But, this was putting great pressure on John’s body as his body tangled at the turn. Every time he experienced too much pain, so they gave pauses to him and tried it again and again.

Nutty putty cave death – The disaster

This continued for a long time and when they expected success, then the disaster struck. The key bolt where the rope was tied had broken, And, with this jerk John had slid right down the crevice, even deeper than before! Even the rescuer suffered severe facial injuries from the impact. The team somehow settled down and changed their places.

By this time, more than 24 hours had passed. He was upside down, and all the blood was going to his mind. Continuously, his heart worked hard against gravity to push the continuous blood flow out of his brain. At that time, the team realized that he is not responding to the calls of the rescue team.

Finally, a medical professional crawled into the cave to check on John and declared him dead. In this massive rescue operation, a total of 137 rescuers worked hard for 27 hours but unfortunately couldn’t save John.

Why was Nutty Putty Cave closed and sealed?

As the dead body of John Jones could not be taken out from the cave, it was considered as a grave. Thus, the authorities decided to close the cave. A week later, the cave was sealed for ever and declared as the final resting place for John Edward Jones.

Is Nutty Putty cave now open or closed?

Since that accident in 2009, it is closed, and sealed. And, till the date of writing this article in 2023, the position is the same.

Who was John Edward Jones?

John, a medical student, and father of a kid and his wife were pregnant with his second child. He had plenty of caving experience as a kid, but not recently. In childhood, he did most of his spelunking all over Utah with his father and younger brother Josh.

So, although he had caving experience, now had gained size and weight! So, the things went horribly wrong for him.

Nutty Putty cave history

From 1999 to 2004, six different people became stuck in Nutty Putty’s narrow passages. It has some very tight squeezes like “The Helmet Eater,” “The Scout Eater”, and “The Birth Canal.” However, the rescue operations in all six earlier cases were successful.

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Citing safety concerns, the authorities closed the Nutty Putty Cave in 2006. They only reopened in May 2009 after a cave management plan was signed with the Timpanogos Grotto. The Grotto set up an online reservation system that only allowed one group in the cave at a time. Further, they decided to keep the entrance to the cave shut at night.

Why do people do risky adventures like caving, rock climbing, etc.?

Now, a question comes to mind after all what temptation makes people do such risky adventures? There is a long list of such hobbies as caving, rock climbing, skyscraper climbing, dirt biking, etc. So, despite the high risk of death or serious injuries, why people do involve in such things?

I asked several such risk-takers, and they told me that they do it for an adrenaline rush, challenge, exploration, truly living the life, etc. They want to enjoy the moments that take away their breath! However, they shared that some people with suicidal tendencies also do get involved in such risky games.

They opined that millions of people enjoy such activities and news comes only of an accident, so it’s not as risky as others think. Further, accidents can happen anywhere. Then why not enjoy such games?

What’s your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Reference: Wikipedia.
  • Search words: john edward jones nutty putty cave, john nutty putty cave, nutty putty cave story, nutty putty cave accident

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