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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 15:14 GMT
Stuck woman traps SA cave group
Cango Caves (Permission: H Gerstner. Cango Caves)
The tourists coped with the ordeal well. Photo: Cango Caves
An overweight woman who got stuck in a South African cave trapped 22 fellow tourists for more than 10 hours and had to be prised free with liquid paraffin.

The woman became trapped in the Tunnel of Love obstacle in the Cango Caves in Western Cape on New Year's Day.

The caves' manager said the woman had been warned she might not be suitable but she insisted on trying.

One of those trapped was a diabetic who had to be brought insulin. The woman and the other tourists were unhurt.

The rescue operation involved several ambulance teams and a helicopter.

Hein Gerstner, manager of Cango Caves, told the BBC it was an "expensive exercise" that could cost 40,000 rand ($5,700, 2,925).

"We don't know yet who will foot the bill," he said.


The ordeal began when the woman became stuck just after noon on New Year's Day.

Mr Gerstner said the woman was "told at the ticket office that she was too big to take part in the specific section".

He said she was again warned by the guide but that it was "very difficult to discriminate".


Mr Gerstner said: "The obstacle has a narrow base. She lost her footing and went down in a splits position. There was no way she could get her body weight up."

But he said she was young and remained mentally strong throughout and the other tourists took the ordeal "exceptionally well".

The tourists, including two asthmatic children, were given blankets, water and chocolate bars as the rescue proceeded.

One rescuer was able to climb over the woman to deliver insulin to the diabetic.

No drilling equipment was needed and the woman was eventually freed with a pulley and paraffin used to grease the surface at about 2320.

She was taken to hospital but is not injured and is expected to be released on Tuesday.

Mr Gerstner said: "We believe what goes in, must come out again. People get stuck all the time - that's one of the unfortunate things that happen, it's part of the adventure."

However, he said the caves would consider more stringent measures for those entering.

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