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Top stories of 2009, No. 3: Tragedy at Nutty Putty Cave

By Alex Cabrero | Posted - Dec. 31, 2009 at 7:01 p.m.



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

UTAH COUNTY -- It was a controversial decision many people are still upset about, even though they understand a tragedy happened. For our No. 3 story of 2009, we take a look back to what happened after John Jones died and the decision to close the Nutty Putty Cave for good.

More than 24 hours after being stuck in Utah County's Nutty Putty cave, 26-year old John Jones died there. He was exploring an unmapped area and got stuck in a tight spot.

"We just want to thank the rescue workers," his brother, Josh Jones, said. "It was a heroic effort. There are some that feel they have failed our family, and we want everyone to know they have done everything humanly possible to save our brother."

Sen. John Valentine, who also works with Utah County Search and Rescue, said, "It's a very, very difficult experience to just be that close and not be able to pull it off. We're all struggling as well. We're all grieving with the family and the whole community."

John Jones and several friends went into the popular cave the day before Thanksgiving. After his death, the cave was sealed with his body still stuck inside. It was a decision made by several agencies, including the Jones family.

"It will be the final resting place for our son and our brother and husband," Josh Jones said. "It's a place to honor and respect our brother."

The decision to close the cave, though, was a controversial one. Dale Green, the man who discovered and named the cave, felt sealing it all is a mistake.

"You know, I don't see any reason why it has to be closed. Just that one section, try to keep people out of that one section. That's what's causing all the trouble," Green said.

Thousands of people visited Nutty Putty every year. Many agreed the portion where John Jones died should be sealed, but not the entire cave.

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

"When I found out they were closing it without us being able to say anything, to have any word on it, I thought it was ridiculous," caver Kyle Parker said.

However, the cave was sealed with explosives and cement within a week after Jones died.

"For the same reason that John got hurt and got stuck, if we put other people in the same location, they could likewise get stuck or get hurt," Valentine said.

A memorial for John Jones at the cave is still being planned. He left behind a pregnant wife and a 14-month-old daughter.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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