Mark Dickey, the 40-year-old American speleologist who got stranded in a cave in Turkey more than a week ago, has been pulled out alive, the Turkish Caving Federation said on social media.

Footage showed Dickey being hoisted out onto the surface Tuesday, bound tightly to a rescue stretcher. “It is amazing to be above ground again,” he told reporters and friends who greeted him outside the cave. “I was underground for far longer than ever expected.”

He recalled fearing for his life, vomiting blood and struggling to retain consciousness, and he thanked the Turkish government and his rescuers for saving his life. He was sent to a hospital by helicopter about an hour after being rescued, according to the Turkish federation.

The U.S. National Cave Rescue Commission in Huntsville, Ala., expressed delight in a statement: “Mark is out of the cave!”

“The global cooperation to get Mark out of this very deep cave is amazing,” the U.S. commission’s Gretchen Baker said in a news release. “We are so grateful to the Turkish government and all the rescue teams for helping to get our friend to the surface.”

Dickey had suffered gastrointestinal bleeding when he was 3,674 feet below the surface, exploring Turkey’s 4,200-foot-deep Morca cave as part of an expedition. The illness rendered Dickey unable to climb out on his own.

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Dickey’s colleagues alerted local rescuers, who alerted the European Cave Rescue Association on Sept. 2. An international rescue effort sprung up with more than 160 people from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Turkey and the United States arriving at the cave, according to the U.S. cave rescue commission.

Dickey was temporarily stabilized at a camp about 3,400 feet underground, but he was still not well enough to make the ascent on his own. Doctors gave him blood transfusions before rescuers started what would be a 57-hour ascent Saturday afternoon.

“It takes about 15 hours for an uninjured, experienced caver to ascend from the [3,400-foot-deep] camp to the surface due to the tight passages, complex ropework, and extreme physicality required,” the commission said in the news release. “To get someone injured out, in a rescue litter, takes much longer,” it added.

After Dickey was pulled out, rescuers were still working to decommission the haul systems and rigging gear that had been placed inside the cave, according to the European Cave Rescue Association. Cavers have started a fundraiser aimed at covering the rescue’s cost.

Dickey is a veteran caver who served as an instructor for the U.S. cave rescue commission for 10 years. He has participated in previous rescue operations and expeditions, including in Europe, and already knew some of the rescuers who carried him out, Baker said.

Speaking outside the cave Tuesday, Dickey marveled at the whole harrowing experience. “This is a first,” he said as the small crowd gathered around him laughed.

He echoed the reply of someone nearby, agreeing that he should “make it a last” as well.

By mrtrv