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Explorer rescued from 3,400ft inside Turkish cave credits fiancee for saving his life

The American caver who was trapped 3,400 feet deep in a Turkish cave has praised his fiancee for playing a key role in his survival and rescue.

Mark Dickey spent nine days underground after falling seriously ill with internal bleeding inside the Morca cave, the third deepest in Turkey.

The 40-year-old from New Jersey says he would not be alive without the actions of Jessica Van Old, who is also a caver and a paramedic.

It was she who recognised his worsening symptoms during their expedition earlier this month and left his side to climb back to the surface and raise the alarm.

“I’m alive because of the rescuers but she is the one that saved my life initially,” Mr Dickey said about her as he appeared on Good Morning America on Thursday.

“She is one hell of a woman, one hell of a caver, one hell of a rescuer, one hell of a paramedic and she’s awesome.”

Mr Dickey, an experienced caver and rescue team member said he always “knew I would get to the surface” but that he was daunted by the logistics it would require to get him the life-saving medications he needed before he could be extracted.

Mark Dickey is carried in a stretcher after being pulled out of Morca cave near Anamur, south Turkey (AP)
Mark Dickey is carried in a stretcher after being pulled out of Morca cave near Anamur, south Turkey (AP)

“I knew we had to get the ball rolling if there was going to be a rescue and to have treatment started,” Ms Van Ord told ABC News.

Mr Dickey told the Today show that he had almost lost hope of a successful outcome.

“There’s lots of different medical terminology, but ‘circling the drain’ is one of them, and I was down pretty deep in that drain,” he said.

And he added: “I was down to single-word communication, I was in a fetal position, barely moving.”

Dickey being hoisted towards the mouth of the cave (IHA)
Dickey being hoisted towards the mouth of the cave (IHA)

After the alarm was raised, international rescue teams arrived from the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service and Bulgarian Cave Rescue. They were then joined by teams from Italy, Croatia and Poland to aid with the operation.

By the time the rescue got underway, there were around 200 caving experts on hand to help bring Mr Dickey safely back to the surface.

When he was finally removed from the cave at around 12.30am local time on Tuesday morning after a three-day ascent, Mr Dickey was taken by helicopter to hospital in the city of Mersin.

He told GMA that he is now in stable condition and doctors are still tests to find out what happened to him.