by Mike Burkett
roundup staff reporter
A 66-year-old Payson man tumbled 200 feet down a steep slope at Chevelon Canyon Friday evening miraculously suffering only several bone fractures, a sprained ankle, and a number of scrapes and bruises.
According to Sgt. Terry Hudgens of the Gila County Sheriff's Department, the accident occurred when Harry Vernon Jones and friends were climbing out of the canyon after spending the day fishing in Chevelon Canyon.
The trio was within 200 feet of the top of the canyon wall when Jones slipped and rolled approximately 200 feet down the slope and into a tree.
Rescue crews from the Coconino County Sheriff's Office and the Forest Lakes Fire Department were the first to arrive at the scene in the mid-afternoon.
At 5:10 p.m., emergency crews requested the assistance of the Gila County Sheriff's Office and the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Rope Team, which finally extracted Jones from the canyon at approximately 11:30 p.m.
"He was conscious and fully oriented by the time we got to him," Hudgens said. "He wanted to get up and walk, but we wouldn't let him because of his head injury. It was a pretty steep slope, but he had no vertical drops, which kept him from being hurt more seriously than he was."
Jones was pulled by rope about 400 feet to the top of the canyon's rim, carried a half mile to the nearest vehicle access, and transported by Forest Lakes ambulance to an area where he could be air-lifted to Scottsdale Healthcare-Osborn.
Monday morning, a hospital spokesperson said that Jones was listed in good condition.
Jones' wife, Susie, meanwhile, said that her husband suffered one skull fracture and four fractures of his jaw.
"Yesterday, they wired his jaw shut, and that might not be an all-bad thing, from my standpoint," Susie Jones joked. "But he's doing fine. His spirits are great. The first thing he said to me, though, was 'No more hiking.'"