A trapped American explorer has said he “was very close to the edge” as he thanked Turkish authorities for saving his life in an emotional video from deep inside a cave system.
Mark Dickey, 40, became trapped 3,400 feet below the surface after he suffered stomach bleeding while in the Morca cave on Saturday, sparking an international rescue mission with hundreds of caving experts brought in to help.
“I was very close to the edge,” Mr Dickey admitted in the video obtained by The Associated Press.
Throughout the week, rescuers were able to send six units of blood and doctors to Mr Dickey. While his condition has improved, he may still need a stretcher to exit.
Rescuers began setting up rope lines on Wednesday as part of the effort, though it is unclear when they can begin the mission due to its extreme complexity.
The cave system is described as extremely narrow with many twists and turns, making it difficult to navigate. It typically takes a person in good health around 15 hours to exit.
In the video, Mr Dickey thanks the caving community for rallying around him.
“Hi. Mark Dickey from nearly a thousand meters,” Mr Dickey said. “The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it’s amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface,” he said in the video, which was released by the Turkish government.
“We’re still waiting for communications actually to reach down here. So right now it’s a day or two days of travel for information to get back and forth. I don’t quite know what’s happened, but I do know that the quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I need, in my opinion, saved my life. I was very close to the edge.”
The rescue mission is a challenging one as Mr Dickey is currently unable to climb out on his own, according to the European Cave Rescue Association.
The group has described the American as “a highly trained caver and a cave rescuer himself” who is secretary of the association’s medical committee.