A 13-year-old Star Valley boy was injured Wednesday during a school field trip after falling from a rock ledge into the East Verde River.
Dallas Mitchell, a student at the recently formed Star Valley School, was playing on the rocks overlooking the swollen East Verde River when he lost his footing.
"We were climbing this rock and I looked up and he slipped," said Scott Frost, a long-time friend of Mitchell. "I tried to catch him, but I couldn't."
Mitchell struck his head and suffered other injuries as he tumbled down the rock face about 12 to 15 feet and into the water. Students quickly jumped into the river to help.
"We got down there as fast as we could," Frost said. "He had a bump on his head and some blood. He said he couldn't move. When we were moving him he started to feel like he was going to pass out."
After moving Mitchell back up to the rock area, other students climbed to higher ground in order to call 911 on a cell phone while an adult volunteer from the school tended to the injured boy.
The student who first made contact with an emergency services dispatcher was 13-year-old Michael T. Harris.
"This young man who made the call did an exemplary job reporting the incident and giving us directions," Houston Mesa Fire Chief Frank Hansen said. "He was a great help to the dispatchers and kept his head. We got the call at 10:50 a.m. and Houston Mesa was on the scene at 10:59 a.m."
Because the Water Wheel campground area of the river is surrounded by steep terrain, Hansen requested additional assistance from the Whispering Pines department.
A combined team of 16 firefighters from Houston Mesa, Beaver Valley and Whispering Pines Fire Departments hiked a rocky trail for more than a mile to reach Mitchell.
"He was disoriented. We started an I.V. and normal ALS (advanced life support) protocols," Hansen said. "The three departments worked tremendously well to accomplish the job we had to do."
After being placed on a rescue stretcher, Mitchell was carried over the water and up steep rock inclines along the trail to an awaiting ambulance. He was taken to Payson Regional Medical Center where he was treated for a concussion and a broken ankle.
"Historically, we have had a lot of injuries up there (Water Wheel area) and even deaths," Hansen said. "In fact, we had one last year from people jumping off the cliffs into the deeper pools."
Mitchell was released from the hospital and made a brief visit to the school Thursday to thank his classmates for their help.
"This was our first field trip of the year. We wanted to get out here before the weather changed," said Russell Koch, Star Valley School Principal.
"A volunteer mom was with the kids at the time, as well as Dallas' grandmother," Koch said. "Before they went out there I told them not to jump off the rocks, and they didn't. Dallas just slipped."