Johnny Russell Mills, Jr., 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 gasoline 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 and 40 feet high. A group of college students, including Mills, 19, were at another cave in the vicinity when they learned of the explosion. They responded to the scene and were informed that Howell and the three scouts were unaccounted for. Mills, an experienced cave explorer who had been in the affected cave previously, and another of the students entered the cave, water-soaked clothing over their heads, following a youth who lived nearby and who also was familiar with the cave. All had flashlights, but dense water vapor limited their effectiveness, and the smell of gasoline was strong. The youth reached the base of the ledge and tried to climb it but then told Mills and the other student that he felt weak and dizzy. They told him to leave, and he started toward the cave entrance. Mills climbed onto the ledge and tried to rouse Howell but then descended and told the other student that they would need help to remove Howell and the others. Starting toward the entrance, they found the youth nauseated and delirious and attempted to aid him, but they too became nauseated. The other student lost consciousness. Two more students entered the cave and took the other student to the foot of the slope, from which he was pulled to safety. Mills was found to be delirious by one of the other students. Rescue squad members arrived, descended the slope, and removed the youth and Mills. As neither could be revived, hope was abandoned for Howell and the scouts. Several hours later, when a breeze entered the cave and improved conditions, the scouts began to revive and called for help. Rescue efforts were begun again, and the scouts were removed from the cave. They recovered. Howell was found fatally injured, having fallen from the ledge.
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