SALT LAKE CITY — The brother of a man who died early Thursday trapped 700 feet inside a Utah cave said his family is remarkably strong but struggles to make sense of what happened.
John Jones, 26, of Stansbury Park, died nearly 28 hours after he became stuck upside-down in Nutty Putty Cave, a popular spelunking site about 80 miles south of Salt Lake City.
His death is the first known fatality at the cave, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office.
"We all were very optimistic and hopeful. But it became increasingly clear last night after he got re-stuck that there weren't very many options left," Jones' brother, Spencer Jones, 30, of San Francisco, told the Associated Press.
Workers at one point had freed John Jones, but a rope-and-pulley system failed and he became stuck a second time.
"We thought he was in the clear and then when we got the news that he had slipped again. That's when we started to get scared," Spencer Jones said.
He had a wife and 8-month-old daughter and was a second-year medical student at the University of Virginia.
A recovery effort to extract John Jones' body from the cave was on hold Thursday as the Utah County Sheriff's Office tried to determine how best to proceed, Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.
It's unclear when the effort will resume. Rescue teams had been using drilling equipment to try to free Jones from the cave. Cannon said recovery work can be more aggressive than a rescue because the victim's well-being is considered differently.