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TVA Lowers Lake to Rescue Scuba Diver from Underwater Cave

August 17, 1992 GMT

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) _ Authorities dropped the level of Nickajack Lake to rescue a scuba diver who was forced to breathe in an 8-inch pocket of air 1,200 feet into an underwater cave.

David Gant, of Bryant, Ala., was trapped for about 16 hours after he and a friend went into the lake’s Nickajack Cave to catch big catfish Saturday night.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates dams in the region, dropped the lake’s level 2 to 3 feet late Sunday morning and Gant made it out about 6 hours later.

The trouble began when Gant was separated from his diving partner in the 3,500-foot-long cave west of here. The friend went for help after making it out late Saturday.

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Gant, who was about 1,200 feet into cave, had run out of air in his scuba tanks. He was holding onto a stalactite and treading water with his feet to breathe air trapped in the 8-inch space between the water and the top of the cave, said Jim Poplin, head of a Hamilton County rescue unit.

The air pocket was running out, Poplin said, and dropping the lake’s level flushed the cave with fresh air.

When rescued, Gant was in good condition but weak and nauseated, Poplin said.

Despite a chain-link fence at its flooded entrance, the cave lures divers because catfish inside grow between 6 and 8 feet long and weigh 200 pounds. No charges were expected to be filed against him.