Hiker Breaks Leg At Natural Bridge

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Starting his New Year out in dramatic fashion is just Jacob Stewart's style, say his friends.

The 25-year-old Mesa man broke both bones in his right leg after sliding down a 15-foot-high rock under the Tonto Natural Bridge.

"We were maintaining him," friend and fellow hiker Tabi Burkett said, "until he wandered. Then he started yelling for Chy."

Burkett and Ryan Corbett brought Stewart, Cheyenne Knapp, and Josh Comstock to the bridge for an afternoon hike and sightseeing tour.

It was about 3 p.m. when the hike ended with Stewart's crash landing.

"Some guys will do anything for a free ride out," Pine-Strawberry paramedic Mike Roggenstein said, as the friends joked with Stewart to take his mind off of the pain.

Although in obvious pain, Stewart was able to mug for his buddies and their camera and joke with friends and rescuers.

Three men from the P-S Fire Department, along with two Gila County Sheriff's deputies, two park rangers, and a dozen Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteers, took turns carrying Stewart from under the natural bridge up the west side Gowan Loop trail to an awaiting ambulance. Finding the rocks tricky, the rescuers took to passing the man from hand to hand, over the treacherous rocks, slick from so many feet having passed over them, wet from the constant drip of Pine Creek above.

Once at Payson Regional Medical Center, Stewart was admitted and scheduled for surgery Sunday morning to repair the break, Burkett said late Saturday afternoon.

He was released from the hospital Monday.

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