9 Firefighters Killed After Brazilian Cave Collapses During Training Exercise

28 firefighters were inside the Duas Bocas cave near Altinópolis when its roof collapsed on Sunday

firefighters stuck in cave
Search and rescue teams in a cave on the Gruta Duas Bocas, where the firefighters were killed. Photo: Sao Paulo State's Military Police/AFP via Getty

A training exercise inside a cave took a fatal turn for a group of Brazilian firefighters after the roof collapsed and killed nine people, according to officials.

The Altinópolis' Mayor's Office confirmed the tragedy in a press release, explaining that nine victims were found dead inside the cave and another seven were rescued.

Five of those victims have already been discharged from the hospital, while two others remain in local hospitals in stable condition after undergoing surgery for their injuries, the release stated.

The incident unfolded just before 11:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, ABC News reported, citing the Sao Paulo Military Firemen Department.

A total of 28 firefighters were performing a training exercise inside a cave on the Gruta Duas Bocas trail, which is located near Altinópolis in São Paulo, when the roof of the cave collapsed, according to the outlet.

Of the 28 firefighters inside at the time, 16 of them became trapped, per the Associated Press.

The Ministry of Public Security said approximately 75 firefighters, teams from the Emergency and Disaster Assistance Group, local military police and two helicopters were all called to the scene throughout the day to help with search and recovery efforts, Sky News reported.

"From the moment we were informed of the incident, we have made every effort to ensure support for the rescue teams, who worked incessantly in the search, carrying out their work with admirable commitment and worthy of all our respect and recognition," the mayor's office wrote in their release.

"Today, everyone who strived to ensure the success of the rescue operation can be called a hero in our Altinópolis and will have our eternal thanks," they added, calling the events ones that "we cannot foresee and not even prevent."

In a follow-up press release Monday, the Altinópolis' Mayor's Office identified the nine victims as Celso Galina Junior, José Cândido Messias da Silva, Elaine Cristina de Carvalho, Rodrigo Triffoni Calegari, Jonatas Italo Lopes, Jenifer Caroline da Silva, Natan de Souza Martins, Ana Carla Costa Rodrigues de Barros and Debora Silva Ferreira.

The release also provided plans for each of the victims' funerals and wakes.

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"In this moment of pain and suffering, the municipal government of Altinópolis is in solidarity with the families and friends of the villagers," the mayor's office wrote. "May God comfort the hearts of all who are suffering because of the greatest tragedy has occurred in the history of Altinópolis."

At this time, it is unclear what caused the cave's roof to collapse.

Altinópolis is a major tourist attraction known for its caves, per NDTV. GloboNews reported that the area had been hit with heavy rains since Saturday afternoon.

Cristina Trifoni — who is the mother to victim Rodrigo Triffoni Calegari, one of the instructors for the training exercise — told the outlet that the group planned to spend the night inside the cave.

"What happened is that the entrance to the place they were in collapsed," she explained, adding that her 32-year-old son was familiar with the spot and often taught courses there.

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