Injured Tonto Bridge Tourist Moved To Rehab


A tourist who suffered a cracked skull at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park Saturday afternoon was moved from the intensive care unit at John C. Lincoln Hospital to St. Joseph's Hospital's rehabilitation center last Wednesday.

As of Tuesday morning, Shannon Robertson of Phoenix was listed in fair condition.

Robertson, 24, was at the bottom of the bridge Aug. 2 when a 7-year-old boy threw a rock from 180 feet above that hit her in the head. The boy was playing at one of the park's lookout points and had been left unsupervised, said Karen Baltz, the Gila County Sheriff's deputy investigating the incident.

After the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, park officials and paramedics carried Robertson up the difficult Gowan Trail Loop and assessed her injuries, she was air-lifted to John C. Lincoln. There, doctors had to remove shattered bone from Robertson's brain.

The bone was lodged in the right part of her brain where the left side of the body's motor skills are controlled, which is why Robertson did not have any feeling in her left leg or foot.

The surgery was successful, but Robertson likely has a long road to recovery ahead of her, said Wendy Thompson, Robertson's mother.

"Nobody knows how long it (recovery) will take," she said. "It could be six months to a year."

Thompson said Robertson has both physical and mental obstacles in front of her. She has been trying to walk and while she cannot put her left foot flat on the ground yet, she has been "walking on her toe nails."

In addition to a physical therapist, Robertson is working with a speech therapist, who is helping her recover her speaking and thinking skills, which have slowed as a result of the injury.

Thompson said Robertson remembers everything she had learned before the accident, but that learning new tasks and ideas in the future will prove either extremely difficult or impossible.

Baltz would not release the name of the boy who threw the rock or that of his father.

She said despite ignoring the 11 signs posted in the area warning visitors not to throw objects because the lookout point is above a hiking trail, the boy never meant to hurt anyone.

"It was just a random act of, ‘Oh, this is nice rock. I'm going to throw it,'" she said. "There was no intent to hurt anybody or damage property."

Volunteer Marilyn Hamm, who was standing two feet in front of Robertson when the rock hit her, radioed for help as she, volunteer Don Yateman and Robertson's boyfriend, Randy Payne, worked to stabilize the blood flowing from Robertson's head wound for about a half-hour before rescue crews arrived.

Both Hamm and Yateman have extensive medical training that allowed them to care for Robertson, according to park ranger and volunteer coordinator Cathe Descheemaker, who was also on the scene of the incident.

Descheemaker said Hamm and Yateman are two of the park's "finest volunteers."

Robertson was able to visit her Phoenix apartment for a day-trip this weekend, one more sign she is improving, Thompson said.

"Every day it seems to be a little bit better," she added.

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