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John Edward Jones

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The movie The Last Descent is based on the experience of John Edward Jones and his descent into the Nutty Putty Cave (located on the west side of Utah Lake) with his brothers and friends during the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday break.

According to the Deseret News, Jones had entered the caves Tuesday with a group of 11 others, but decided to explore a different route. He went into a tight passageway known as the Birth Canal to Bob’s Push, an 18-inch by 10-inch L-shaped pinpoint. While exploring the cave, he became stuck upside down in a crevice 150 feet underground. The spot is very narrow, very awkward, and it’s difficult to get rescuers down there.

They were able to free Jones initially using a rope-pulley system. At that point, Jones had been hanging, headfirst, at a 70- or 80-degree angle for more than eight hours, said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Tom Hodgson.
It was around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when rescuers got him loose. They were able to give him an IV, food and water. He also received a needed morale boost after he was able to talk to his wife over a police radio.
For a few hours there were sighs of tentative relief. . . . That only lasted for a few hours.[1]

The rope system that was hoisting Jones out of the cave failed and dropped him back into the same, narrow gap. It was later determined that the integrity of the rock had been the cause. Twenty-four hours after the start of the rescue attempt, they were “back to square one.”

Despite a full day’s rescue efforts, Jones died around midnight. He most likely died from the pressure on his body and his inability to breathe. He was wedged around his mid-torso and upper hip area. The Nutty Putty Cave was later sealed up and became John’s final resting place.

The family released this statement: he will be remembered for "his good nature, delightful sense of humor, strong work ethic, a genuine love of people, a masterful ability to relate to children, a love of and unwavering faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and his commitment to his family as an amazing husband, father, son and brother."

Jones was a medical school student at the University of Virginia. He and his wife, Emily, and thirteen-month-old daughter were in Stansbury Park, Utah for Thanksgiving. They had come to announce to family that they were expecting a second child.[2]

Emily, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as was John, said it was her faith that sustained her.
“Definitely for the first few months I just felt really buoyed up, I felt OK,” she said. “I was obviously devastated and I missed John and it was rough, but I felt full of faith. I felt like Heavenly Father is going to take care of us and it’s going to be OK.”
She said she had several experiences that left her certain that John continued to exist, despite his death.
“I hadn’t always had an amazing testimony,” she said. “I’d had my fair share of doubts and struggles, but after my experiences after John’s death, I knew death wasn’t the end. I knew John was still out there. I thought: ‘OK. He has work to do and I need to figure out what I’m going to do.”

Emily said the Jones family decided to share his story “to show people the kind of man he was as well as to share the message that there is hope of seeing those we love again.” "I think when people come away from this movie they will have a greater desire to love people, to love their family, to love better, to be kinder, to be a better person, and to cherish every minute they have with their loved ones," Emily says. "This in not the end of life. Life goes on. Family goes on. Relationships go on after this life."[3]

Emily delivered her second child, a son she named John Edwards Jones II, in June of the next year. She married Donovan Sanchez in 2012. She gave birth to a son in December 2013.