The Plura Cave Tragedy and the Heroic Recovery

The Plura Cave Tragedy and the Heroic Recovery
Incident LocationDiver Full Name
Norway, Plura CaveKai Känkänen, Patrick Gronkvist, Yadi Hutanan, Vesa Rantanen, Yadi U

Plura Cave in Norway is a popular diving site among experienced cave divers. The waters are ice cold, but the views are stunning. In 2014, a horrible accident happened to a group of five Finnish divers while traversing the Plura Cave System. Stay till the end to find out what happened to them.

Background Information

On February 6, 2014, a group of five divers planned to traverse the Plura Cave System. The five divers were 46-year-old Kai Känkänen, 42-year-old Patrick Gronkvist, 40-year-old Yadi Hutanan, 33-year-old Veso Rantanen, and 34-year-old Yadi U. All five divers were experienced technical divers with CCR full cave dive certification. Four of the divers, except Yadi U, had dived in the Plura Cave in the past, so they weren’t new to the cave. Yadi U had dived several times into quarries and caves in Finland and other places.

They planned to enter the Plura Cave in a pond and dive 6,680 feet to the other entrance at Steinugo Floggett Cave. The Plura Cave, or Plura Grata, is located in Rana, Norway, with a depth of at least 443 feet. It is the deepest cave in northern Europe and is very popular among cave divers. The passages of the cave were formed by the current of the Plura River over limestone. This exploration can be very dangerous and complicated due to the ice-cold water and narrow passages where divers can easily get lost.

The Dive

On February 6, 2014, very early in the morning, the five divers were ready to start their dive. They divided themselves into two groups: Kai, Vesa, and Yadi U in one group, and Patrick and Yadi H in another group. Patrick and Yadi began to cut holes in the ice with chainsaws at the entrance of the cave while the other three took their diving equipment to Steinuga Floggett Cave.

Patrick and Yadi, using an underwater scooter to hasten their movements and conserve energy, were the first to dive inside the cave. They made their way through the hole they had just drilled in the ice at the pond area. The water temperature under the ice was 2 degrees Celsius, and it was crystal clear.

The second group planned to enter the cave two hours after the first group started their dive to ensure that any disturbances caused by their movements had settled down before they started. While the second group waited at the entrance, Patrick and Yadi continued their dive using an underwater scooter. They both had closed circuit rebreathers (CCR) and bailout equipment. The closed circuit rebreather recycles exhaled oxygen, conserving it and extending their diving time. They also had secondary equipment, another rebreather system, and open circuit gas cylinders in case their primary equipment failed.

After two hours, the second group, Kai, Vesa, and Yadi U, began their dive, passing through the same pond as the first group. Patrick and Yadi came very close to the deepest part of the cave, which is 427 feet. They released their underwater scooter so that Yadi could take a look at the beauty of the cave. Being his first time at Plura Cave, Yadi tried talking to Patrick, but his shouts couldn’t be heard due to his mouthpiece.

Tragedy Strikes

They were much closer to the entrance at Steinoga Flaget Cave than to the pond entrance where they were coming from. Patrick switched to his bailout rebreather successfully as he journeyed first through the right turn and ascending narrow passage that leads to their destination. By the time he was done with the ascent, he discovered he couldn’t see Yadi’s light. He turned around and waited for a while just to see Yadi’s light waving up and down. Although he didn’t know what was wrong with Yadi, he immediately knew this was a sign of distress. Yadi was calling Patrick to come to him, and Patrick did. Both of them were now facing each other in the narrow cave, and Patrick had to remove one of his large bailout cylinders and his scooter that was almost blocking the way at the request of Yadi.

When Patrick got to Yadi, he discovered that Yadi’s scooter line was stuck under a giant rock. When Patrick told him his scooter was stuck, Yadi forcefully removed it from the rock. Patrick stepped out of the way for Yadi to pass, but Yadi was rather asking for an open circuit bailout gas. This was the moment Patrick knew that Yadi was really in great distress. They were now about 364 feet below the surface. Yadi received the open circuit bailout and he took some breaths from it before switching back to his rebreather. Yadi repeated this about three times. Later, Patrick discovered that Yadi did not have anything in his mouth again, so he helped him put a regulator over his mouth as he pressed the purge button.

The purge button on the front of the regulator injects a blast of air for clearing. Instead of using your own breath. Patrick intended to help Yadi out, but it turned out to worsen the situation. Yadi inhaled water and eventually gave up the ghost. With great fear, Patrick immediately held onto a nearby rock while trying to get himself together. His heart was already racing at the sight of his friend’s corpse. Being a rescue diver, Patrick has seen several dead bodies, but watching his dead friend was traumatic for him. Nevertheless, he had to calm himself so that two fatalities wouldn’t be recorded. Panic in the face of cave diving difficulties kills faster than anything else.

Patrick couldn’t return to meet the second group to inform them that they had already had a casualty because the passage had been blocked by Yadi’s body. Also, he couldn’t go for a quick decompression to exit the cave as fast as possible without having to face decompression sickness, which could have endangered his life. In the end, their five-hour planned dive was going to last him about eight to nine hours. He had already given some of his bailouts to Yadi, and the oxygen cylinder was also with Yadi.

He had no option but to continue his dive towards Steinoga Flaget Cave, hoping to get out before he ran out of gas. He wondered how his other friends would react when they discovered Yadi’s body. By the time they arrived at the scene, he was baffled if they would also successfully make it out of the cave and if he wouldn’t be the only surviving diver on this trip.

Panic kills

Panic in the face of cave diving difficulties kills faster than anything else. Patrick couldn’t return to meet the second group to inform them that they had already had a casualty because the passage had been blocked by Yadi’s body. Also, he couldn’t go for a quick decompression to exit the cave as fast as possible without having to face decompression sickness, which could have endangered his life. In the end, their five-hour plan dive was going to last him about eight to nine hours. He had already given some of his bailouts to Yadi, in the oxygen cylinder, was also with Yadi.

He had no option but to continue his dive towards Steinogle Floggett cave, hoping to get out before he ran out of gas. He wondered how his other friends would react when they discovered Yadi’s body. By the time they arrived at the scene, he was baffled if they would also successfully make it out of the cave and if he wouldn’t be the only surviving diver on this trip. The second group, led by Vasa, who had a video camera attached to his diving scooter, had yet to reach the scene where Patrick and his dead diving buddy were.

The three divers in the group, Vesa, Kai, and Yadi U, carried enough bailout cylinders, and Vasa, who was super conscious of having failed primary equipment, carried along five big cylinders with him. His friends had warned him against this action because his movement would be restricted in the cave’s narrow passages, but he would not listen. Kai then offered to assist with one of those cylinders. At about 410 feet into the cave, Vasa got stuck in a very narrow passage. Therefore, he took off two of his cylinders so that he could pass through the narrow passage. Again, one of his fins became tangled with the guideline, and he shouted at the person behind him, Yadi U, to help him remove it.

After he was out of the entanglements, he realized that his diving time had increased because of the initial delay. This means that he would have to perform several decompression stops in cold water, which he disliked. Vasa continued his dive into the deepest part of the cave, then he discovered Yadi’s body. He didn’t look into the body but maneuvered his way around it to pass .when he noticed that a light was closer to him, Yadi U slid. He shouted that Yadi H was dead but he would try to find a way to pass. Kai, who was some distance behind them, met Yadi U and discovered that something was off with him. He asked Yadi what was wrong, but he couldn’t understand what he said.

Yadi U was moving up and down, possibly he had seen the body of Yadi H and decided to turn back. At some point, he switched to his bailout system and stopped using the closed circuit rebreather. Kai tried to tell him to take it easy so that he can ensure his equipment was working effectively. Kai didn’t know what was wrong, but he believed that Yadi U wasn’t having issues with his rebreather.

Not long afterwards, Yadi U also dropped dead. When Kai saw that Yadi U was dead, he had no option but to continue with his journey. There was nothing he could do for his dead friend. As he delved a bit past the body of Yadi U, he saw the body of Yadi H and teamed up with Vasa, who was kicking violently to get past Yadi’s body. Then Kai shouted to inform Vasa that Yadi U was also dead and that they should turn back. But Vasa didn’t turn back because of the long distance it would take them to return to the pond entrance where they had come from.

Kai turned back alone, not being able to wait for Visa, whom he assumed might not make it through the rigors alive because he was already panicking and would get exhausted sooner.

Also, he never knew what the fate of Patrick would be, dead or alive. But ultimately, he thought he too would have died. But luckily for Visa, he was able to get through the narrow passage after removing some of his equipment. Kai had a long ascent to make. He had two rebreathers with him, but he was left with little extra air. One of his bailout cylinders, which was only fitted for deep diving, couldn’t be used for his ascent. Kai had no option but to make a fast ascent, ignoring several warnings from his dive computer indicating his need for decompression stops. His chances of running out of gas were greater than having decompression sickness.

On getting to the air chamber, which is just about 98 feet away from the entrance, Kai decided to breathe air from it while conserving his air. But he couldn’t wait too long, wondering how many days he would need to spend in the air chamber with no one available to rescue him if anything went wrong with him there. He had to move on and continue his journey to the entrance. His situation got even worse because his underwater scooter broke down.

This resulted in more exertion as he still had to maneuver his way to the entrance if he didn’t want to die in the cave. The trip from the air chamber to the entrance took 45 minutes without his scooter instead of 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Patrick was in great despair while he was heading towards the entrance of Steinagle Floggett cave after the death of his diving buddy. He never knew what had happened to the rest of his friends. He thought about his family.

What could he have done alone in the dark, cold water late at night? He held on to the rocks as he continued his dive. He had limited battery power left for his scooter, but he needed to stay warm and have light around him. But he could only go for one of these options at a time. Either he stays warm and is in the dark, or he stays cold and has light. It was a tough time for him. Patrick never knew that Visa was behind him, having his decompression stop.

He never thought any of them had made it alive. Vasa remained close to the guideline, and he often laid on the cave’s floor while waiting during his decompression stop. Luckily for him, his new undersuit had enough argon to inflate it, and with this, he was able to maintain his body temperature. Kai, who was making his ascent through the same entrance they entered the cave through took some decompression stops, but he skipped many. He also dropped some of his equipment. He was getting colder whenever he made a stop, so he swam around to keep himself warm. He felt guilty for not being able to help his friend, Yadi U.

Plura Cave accident map

He thought about the fate of Patrick too, but he had no one to answer his questions as to what had happened to his other two friends. After several hours, he opened the valve of his last oxygen tank. Though unaware of the quantity left, all alone, the three divers were making their way out to the entrance. They had spent more hours than they had planned, so they were all running out of air and strength in themselves. They had to seriously miss a lot of decompression stops to save time and air. While Patrick continued his dive to the Steinagle Floggit cave entrance, he noticed a light directly below him as he made his ascent. He soon realized that it was Vasa, who was coming below him. Vasa informed him that the others had turned back.

This gave Patrick a bit of relief as he continued his journey out of the cave. It was around nine o’clock in the evening when Patrick got to the surface. He had spent eight and a half hours instead of five in the cave. He sat down in the Steinago Floggit cave, waiting for Vasa to exit through the same entrance. After about an hour, Vasa also emerged from the cave. He was already experiencing headaches from the cave, which he mistook for decompression sickness. When he got to the surface, he was also having aches in his right knee. They both sat down to relax at the Steinhoogle Flocket cave. After three hours, Kai also surfaced at the other entrance to the pond where they had all entered the cave. A thin layer of ice covered the hole they initially drilled while entering, but he was able to break through it and come out.

On getting to the surface, he could find no one around. It was already 1:30 a.m. on February 7, 2014, and everywhere was still dark. He had dived for nothing less than 11 and a half hours. The dive that started on February 6th ended some hours into the following day. He went into the van that brought them to the dive site, he switched on the engine, and turned on the lights too.

Patrick and Vasa changed into dry clothes at Steinoogle Floggett cave and walked up to the pond at Yard Brew Farm to wait there. They alerted the Norwegian authorities about the incident. While waiting, they saw the van’s lights on at around 2 a.m., and both of them ran to the van to see who it was. Kai , who was lying down in the van, thought they were people from the neighborhood. He told them in English that he would never swim again. He never thought Patrick and Vasa had made it out of the cave.

News spread abroad about two Finnish divers who died in Plura cave. Police officers came to the scene and investigated the incident with Kai, Patrick, and Vasa. Vasa was taken to a decompression chamber in Bergen, Norway.


Three British divers were later summoned by the local authorities to help recover the two bodies. They entered the cave through the Steinago Flaget entrance, but they couldn’t bring the bodies out, seeing that the recovery operation would be too dangerous. The cave was later closed and banned from further adventure by the officials, since they couldn’t recover the bodies. Patrick, Kai, and Vasa were distraught when they heard that the officials and international divers weren’t able to recover the bodies of their friends. They decided to recover the bodies from the cave themselves because they owed it to them. After all, they did know the cave better than anyone else.

They started to plan the recovery operation despite the official ban. At some point, Patrick sent messages to some of his diving buddies asking for their help in the recovery operation of his friends’ bodies. The recovery operation was a dangerous task. The three divers, along with their diving buddies, formed a team and devised a plan to retrieve the bodies from the Plura cave. They trained extensively, both physically and mentally, for the challenging task ahead.

The team studied the cave’s layout, prepared specialized equipment, and developed strategies to overcome the obstacles they would encounter. After weeks of preparation, they were ready to execute their plan. The team entered the cave through the Steinago Flaget entrance, navigating the treacherous passages and tight squeezes. They followed the guideline left by Patrick and his friends during their previous dive. Despite the harrowing conditions and the constant reminder of the tragedy that occurred in the cave, the team pressed on with determination.

They faced numerous challenges along the way, including strong currents, limited visibility, and the emotional weight of the situation. However, their extensive training and teamwork paid off as they reached the location where the bodies of Yadi H and Yadi U were located. With great care and respect, the team recovered the bodies and brought them back to the surface. It was a somber and emotional moment for everyone involved, but also a moment of closure and peace for the families and friends of the deceased divers.

The bodies were transported back to their home countries for proper burial and to be laid to rest. The recovery operation conducted by Patrick, Kai, Vasa, and their diving buddies was a testament to their unwavering friendship, determination, and love for their fallen comrades. It also served as a reminder of the risks and dangers associated with cave diving and the importance of proper training, preparation, and caution. The Plura cave tragedy left a lasting impact on the diving community, prompting increased awareness and safety measures for cave diving explorations.

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What is the Plura Cave in Norway?

The Plura Cave in Norway is a popular diving site among experienced cave divers. It is the deepest cave in northern Europe and is known for its stunning views. The cave system is formed by the current of the Plura River over limestone, and it presents challenges such as ice-cold waters and narrow passages.

What happened to the group of five Finnish divers in the Plura Cave?

During their dive in the Plura Cave on February 6, 2014, a tragedy occurred to the group of five Finnish divers. One of the divers, Yadi U, encountered difficulties and eventually lost his life. Another diver, Yadi H, also passed away. The remaining divers, Patrick, Vesa, and Kai, faced their own challenges but managed to make it out of the cave.

How did the accident unfold in the Plura Cave?

The accident unfolded when Yadi U’s scooter line got stuck under a rock, causing distress. Despite attempts to help him, he inhaled water and succumbed to the situation. Yadi H’s body was later discovered, and his friend, Vasa, encountered difficulties but managed to continue the dive. Patrick, the only survivor of the first group, proceeded towards the exit while facing his own challenges.

What were the challenges faced by the divers in the Plura Cave?

The divers faced challenges such as the cold water, narrow passages, and the potential to get lost in the cave system. Additionally, equipment malfunctions and the need for decompression stops added to the difficulties. Panic in the face of cave diving difficulties can be fatal, as seen in this tragic incident.

How long did the dive in the Plura Cave last?

The planned five-hour dive in the Plura Cave ended up lasting much longer for the divers involved in the accident. Patrick, the only surviving member of the first group, spent around eight and a half hours in the cave. The entire dive that started on February 6th ended in the early hours of February 7th, lasting over 11 and a half hours for Kai, the last diver to surface.

Patrick Broin
Patrik, a seasoned cave diver, shares his first-hand experiences and expert insights on the treacherous world of cave diving accidents.
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