Jumping from a waterfall always carries some risk. Even a high trafficked waterfall with a deep pool below should be met with caution.
On Wednesday, an 18-year-old swan dived 25 feet off a popular waterfall in Fossil Creek, landing on his belly and possibly puncturing his ribs.
Ryon Morgan was airlifted to a Flagstaff hospital after he landed on his stomach in the creek and began spitting up blood.
Earlier in the day, Morgan and several friends had hiked a mile and a half up to the waterfall from the former Childs-Irving Power Plant location, which is located a dozen miles down a rutted and winding dirt road outside of Strawberry.
While his friends successfully jumped from the falls, Morgan tried to dive off the falls.
“He landed on his chest in the water and from 25 feet up, a belly flop like that can do some injury,” said Gila County Sheriff’s Sgt. Terry Hudgens. “He managed to swim out, but when he tried to walk he couldn’t and he was coughing up blood.”
Morgan’s friends asked Hudgens over the phone if they could carry Morgan out on a cot they had. Hudgens told them to leave Morgan where he was because moving him might cause more damage.
Pine-Strawberry Fire Department arrived first on scene and stabilized Morgan. TRSAR volunteers helped P-S fire wheel Morgan three-quarters of a mile out on a gurney to Fossil Creek Road, said Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Commander Bill Pitterle.
Morgan was then placed in the back of a pickup and driven to an open area near the former power plant where where a helicopter landed and flew him to Flagstaff.
Pitterle said it is popular for people to jump from that waterfall. Despite its popularity, there are few reported accidents in the area.
Most rescues in Fossil Creek occur on the Fossil Springs Trail, where ill-prepared hikers run out of water and become dehydrated or succumb to heat exhaustion.
On Tuesday, TRSAR and P-S Fire carried a 15-year-old girl from the bottom of the trail after she had a seizure.
The teen was traveling with 36 campers and 10 adults from Camp Lo Mia, a Mormon girls camp located in Pine. At about 3 p.m., the group had just made it to the springs at the bottom of the trail when the teen had a seizure.
A group member called for help and rescuers hiked in four miles to the teen, who was subject to seizures.
The girl was then wheeled out, uphill on a litter to the trailhead. It took rescuers several hours to wheel the teen out and Pitterle said he did not make it home until 10:30 p.m.
A half an hour after arriving home, Pitterle got a call from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office that a 79-year-old man was missing from his Pine home.
The man’s wife told officers she had taken a nap around 7 p.m. and that was the last time she had seen her husband. When she woke several hours later, the man was missing.
The woman called the sheriff’s office, who responded and began searching the area around the home along with several neighbors.
After several hours of searching, TRSAR was called in.
Since they had just finished a grueling mission in Fossil Creek, only seven TRSAR volunteers showed up.
Pitterle broke the volunteers up in teams and they began searching a creek near the property that the man frequented.
After 30 minutes of searching, the man was spotted a half a mile downstream from his home.
“He had tumbled down the stream bank and got caught between a rock and a log and was tangled up in a thorny blackberry bush,” Pitterle said.
The man told rescuers he had landed upside down in the brush and had managed to right himself, but did not have the strength to get out of the brush.
About 1 a.m., the man was carried out by firefighters and treated for his injuries.
The man later told rescuers he had gone to take the trash out with a flashlight and then decided to walk down the creek. That is when he fell into the ravine.
With three missions in only a few days TRSAR’s busy week was far from over.
Thursday night, a 14-year-old boy had to be littered out from the bottom of Fossil Creek Canyon. The teen was throwing up and suffering from dehydration, Pitterle said.
“Four rescues in three days, and for those volunteers who worked all four rescues, this came to about 25 miles of wilderness rescue hiking,” Pitterle said.