Exploring caves remains big tourism business

WEST LIBERTY, Ohio -- Business hasn't dipped at Ohio Caverns since 12 boys and their soccer coach became trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand and had to be rescued, but there has been a noticeable increase in questions about safety.

Manager Aaron Smith hopes tourists will continue visiting the caves, which are about two hours northeast of Cincinnati. 

"I think some people's perception of caves changes when they hear when when people get trapped in caves, or there's a problem," he said.

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Visitors like the Buken family from West Chester weren't deterred by the Thailand incident.

"This is beautiful," Lunda Buken said, "It's absolutely gorgeous."

And lots of visitors have been asking if the Ohio Caverns flood, according to Smith. But in the more-than-90 years they've been open, they've never had flooding problems, he said.

"Flooding here is not a problem because we're not really close to any streambeds or riverbeds," he said. "The hill that this cave is contained in is all above the valleys around us where all the rivers and streams would be."

Smith said they've never had rocks fall, either.

"The temperature is always 54 degrees, the humidity is always around 90 percent, you don't have a raging river through here eroding out things, so it's very stable," he said.

Local emergency crews even regularly practice removing people on stretchers through the cave's tight turns in case someone experiences a medical issue while visiting the caves, Smith said.

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