Benney J. Gilley died attempting to help save Phillip L. Howell and others from suffocation, Trenton, Georgia, April 16, 1966. Howell, 27, and 10 Boy Scouts were exploring a large cave, unaware that it contained gasoline fumes as the result of a leak in underground pipes. He and three of the scouts were atop a ledge at one end of a large pit when a lamp ignited the fumes, causing a violent explosion and a huge flash of flames. Seven of the scouts went to the opposite end of the pit and climbed up a steep slope extending to the cave’s entrance, but Howell and the remaining scouts were overcome by noxious gases resulting from the explosion. They collapsed atop the ledge, which was 225 feet from the cave entrance. Alerted to the explosion, Gilley, 18, a high school student who lived nearby and was an experienced cave explorer who had been in the affected cave previously, responded to the cave entrance, as did a group of college students who were exploring another cave in the vicinity. They learned that Howell and the three scouts were unaccounted for. Gilley entered the cave, followed by two of the college students, all with flashlights. Dense water vapor limited the effectiveness of the flashlights, and the smell of gasoline was strong. Gilley reached the base of the ledge and tried to climb it but then told the two students that he felt weak and dizzy. The students told him to leave, and Gilley started toward the cave entrance. Others of the college students entered the cave and found him nauseated and delirious at a point about 85 feet from the entrance slope. They dragged him toward the slope but then felt weak and left the cave. Meanwhile, the two students who entered the cave with Gilley were returning to the entrance for help in removing Howell and the others. They found Gilley and attempted to aid him but became nauseated. Rescue squad members arrived, descended the slope, and removed Gilley. He could not be revived, and hope was abandoned for Howell and the three scouts. Several hours later, when a breeze entered the cave and improved conditions, the scouts began to revive and called for help. Rescue efforts resumed, and the scouts were removed from the cave. They recovered. Howell was found fatally injured, having fallen from the ledge.
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