Purdue student falls 200 feet to his death inside Alabama cave

An experienced young caver plummeted 200 feet to his death while rappelling inside an Alabama cavern, police and university officials said.

Trever Louis Col, a 21-year-old senior at Purdue University in Indiana, died Saturday at Alabama’s Valhalla Cave in Jackson County after traveling nearly 500 miles with four other students who enjoyed spelunking and exploring cave systems, WHNT reported.

“They’re all cavers,” Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips said of the group. “They do this for fun and sport.”

The thrill-seeking youngsters camped inside the cave overnight. Col fell early Saturday after the group awoke to rappel some 227 feet below, Phillips said.

“They were all going to go down in the cave and they were in the pit, more-less a vertical drop,” the sheriff said.

Col, originally from Austin, Texas, died on impact after his rigging came loose due to a knot in the rope. He then fell roughly 200 feet to his death as he tried to fix his equipment, Phillips said.

The students, who had the necessary permits to explore the cave, had to drive more than a mile in order to get cellphone service to call emergency crews. In all, the process to recover Col’s body took more than four hours, Phillips said.

The Valhalla Cave Preserve is known for its “beautiful 227-foot entrance pitch” that stretches more than a mile to the bottom, according to its website, which describes it as “one of the finest pit caves” in the southeastern United States.

Col began studying at Purdue in 2016 and was an experienced caver who climbed in exotic locations like China, his Facebook profile shows.

The mechanical engineering student in Purdue’s honor college was set to receive a bachelor’s degree next year and his master’s in 2021, university officials confirmed.

Col, who spent a semester in China at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, was also a member of the Purdue Outing Club and spent a summer as an intern at Siemens in Ohio, Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering said in a statement.

Col is one of three people who have died this year at the cave preserve, AL.com reported.

“Even when you’re experienced, tragic things can happen,” Jackson County Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen told the outlet.

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