Rescuers recover UK diver who disappeared while exploring Tennessee underwater cave

PHOTO: Rescuers worked on April 16, 2019 to rescue a member of a small group of divers from the U.K. who had been exploring the Mill Pond Cave in Tennessee.PlayCourtesy Chuck Sutherland
WATCH Dramatic rescue from underwater cave in Tennessee

A highly-experienced British diver who went missing as he explored an underwater cave east of Nashville has been rescued.

The diver was identified Wednesday night as Josh Bratchley, a British member of the elite international team that helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand last July.

Specially-trained divers entered the water at approximately 6 p.m. local time to search for Bratchley, who was rescued an hour later, officials said.

Ed Sorenson, a technical cave diver from Florida, was the one to locate Bratchley and helped bring him to safety.

"Rescues are very, very rare so anytime I can bring somebody home back to their family and not in a bag, it's a great day," Sorenson told ABC News in an interview that aired Thursday on "Good Morning America."

Sorenson said it was "very difficult" to find Bratchley because the conditions within the underwater cave were dangerous and the continuous guideline to the surface that the British diver had been using was broken.

"In any cave, the guideline to the surface, if things go wrong that's your only way home," Sorenson said. "So once he got off the line, there was really no chance for him."

Fortunately, the visibility was better than Sorenson anticipated and he spotted Bratchley in a a fairly large air pocket when he first breached the surface, he said.

"When I first surfaced and after he thanked me, I started asking him questions -- how he was, what his health was like -- and he just looked at me and he said, 'I'm not used to being on this end of a rescue,'" Sorenson told "GMA."

PHOTO: An image of area of the Mill Pond Cave in Tennessee from November 2016. The Mill Pond Cave in Tennessee can only be accessed underwater. Authorities said there were dry pockets inside the cave that the missing diver may have accessed. Courtesy Chuck Sutherland
An image of area of the Mill Pond Cave in Tennessee from November 2016. The Mill Pond Cave in Tennessee can only be accessed underwater. Authorities said there were dry pockets inside the cave that the missing diver may have accessed.

Bratchley is said to be in good health and good spirits, according to Bill Whitehouse of the British Cave Rescue Council. He was evaluated by medical crews on the scene and found to be in stable condition, officials said.

Bratchley had traveled from the United Kingdom to the United States with a group of several other experienced divers to explore the Mill Pond Cave near Gainesboro in Jackson County, which is only reachable under water. The group had been staying in the area for the last two or three days, according to the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.

Bratchley disappeared between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Tuesday. He'd been reportedly laying guide line when others in the group noticed he hadn't returned. Divers in his team attempted to rescue him for several hours but couldn’t find him. On Wednesday, a 911 call came in at 1:17 a.m. that Bratchley was missing, according to the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.

It was not clear whether the group was in the cave together at the time or taking turns exploring.

"The group made an additional dive attempt to locate the missing individual prior to contacting 911. This attempt was unsuccessful in locating him," Ethan Burris, a public information officer for the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement Wednesday. "The missing individual is known to have extensive training and experience in this area of expertise."

PHOTO: An image of area of the Mill Pond Cave in Tennessee from November 2016. Courtesy Chuck Sutherland
An image of area of the Mill Pond Cave in Tennessee from November 2016.

The water was said to be a chilly 55 degrees.

"This dive is roughly 400 feet," Hamilton County Rescue Squad Lt. Brian Krebs said at Wednesday's press conference. "It is tight passage."

The area where Bratchley was ultimately found was an "air bell" within the cave system that was large enough for a diver to climb into and held sufficient air to survive for a period of time greater than 24 hours, according to Krebs.

The British Cave Rescue Council told ABC News on Wednesday that it was contemplating scrambling a rescue team. But a U.S. rescue team comprising of specialized rescue divers from Arkansas and Florida were already on their way to the Mill Pond Cave.

ABC News' Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.