Nutty Putty Cave discoverer doesn't want it to be closed

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The man who discovered Nutty Putty Cave in 1960 says only the section where a man got stuck and died should be closed, not the whole cave. He says that one spot has been a problem for years.

John Jones died late Wednesday night after being trapped in the caves for more than 27 hours. Rescuers worked furiously to get him out, but in the end ran out of time.

The Utah County Sheriff's Office has yet to decide exactly how Nutty Putty caves will be sealed. No matter how it's done, though, some caving groups say closing it is a mistake.

Salt Lake City resident Dale Green says he discovered Nutty Putty cave in 1960. A rancher in the area of the cave said he had noticed warm vapors coming out of a hole and knew Green liked to explore caves.

When Green and some friends first went into the cave, he says they knew right away they were in a unique place.

"It was because of the nature of the clay that was in there," says Green. "Everybody who goes through that cave comes out covered with the clay. When we went in, there was no sign whatsoever that anyone had been in there."

Green originally thought of calling the cave "Silly Putty" because of the clay but later thought "Nutty Putty" sounded better.

Nutty Putty Cave discoverer doesn't want it to be closed

"It's been picked up by a lot of people," says Green.

Nutty Putty has since become one of the most popular caves in Utah, but its narrow passages have also made it one of the most dangerous.

When John Jones died after getting stuck late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, Green knew some people would want it closed; however, he says only that one section should be closed, not the whole cave.

"That's the only dangerous place in the whole cave," says Green. "I think they can do something to just try and prevent people from getting into that section. I'm really not for sealing the whole thing."

Green knows how dangerous that one section is. He got stuck there once, too.

"I got down enough so my feet weren't quite sticking up the hole, and I realized I couldn't back out of this. There was no way to push, and I couldn't get a grip with my feet. I was slanted upside down and started to get a little worried," says Green.

He had to yell for a friend to get him out. "He kept pulling and pulling and finally I just popped out," says Green. "I never went back to that section again." [CLICK HERE to view a map of the Nutty Putty Cave]

Green is now close to 80 years old, has been in close to 750 caves and says he discovered about 50 of them. He has been in Nutty Putty several times but won't go anywhere near the section where Jones got stuck.


"I don't want anything to do with it," says Green.

Fruit Heights resident Mike Beard has been in lots of caves, too. He's with the Wasatch Grotto cave club, a part of the National Speleological Society, and doesn't think Nutty Putty should be sealed.

"It's sad," says Beard. "I don't know what you can say to the family, but certainly shutting everybody out of any risk is not the answer."

Beard is worried it will lead to other cave closures. He also thinks if caving is considered dangerous, then what about extreme hobbies like rock climbing, paragliding and sky diving?

Beard says cave entrapment deaths are very rare and most deaths in caves are from falls. He feels people should make their own decisions about risky adventures.

"Why take that opportunity or option away from people?" he says.

Green just hopes something can be worked out, so people can still enjoy what Nutty Putty has to offer. "You know, I don't see any reason why it has to be closed, just that one section," says Green. "Try to keep people out of that one section. That's what's causing all the trouble."

Utah County officials, along with cave managers and Jones' family, unanimously decided Friday to seal the cave with Jones' body inside.


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Alex Cabrero


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