A bear hunt turned disastrous for several Valley hunters Saturday after one member of the group tumbled into a canyon, badly mangling his leg.
A 13-year-old boy was scoping a way into Chevelon Canyon with his father and another hunter after they had reportedly chased a black bear into the canyon after hiking several miles. When a rock gave way, the teen lost his footing, sending him 20-plus feet down steep limestone cliffs west of Forest Lakes on the Mogollon Rim.
The teen came to a stop high above the canyon floor, pinned up next to a log, his right leg visibly broken, said a hiker in the area.
His father scurried down and started calling out for help.
Hikers below said they heard the shouts, but couldn’t make them out over the sound of the river and a storm that had moved in.
When the rain stopped, the hikers realized the person was shouting “Help!”
They couldn’t see anyone, but noticed a tree moving some 400 feet above.
The hikers decided to get out of the canyon and call for help when they spotted a helicopter.
The hikers went back half a mile to the area below where they had seen the tree shaking and made a large arrow out of rocks and waved their hands, directing the helicopter crew.
The helicopter passed and came back, unloading an emergency responder with three bags on the canyon floor.
One hiker offered to help carry the supplies up.
“The dad said when he first saw me, ‘I am so glad you are here, I thought I was going to lose my son,’” said the Payson hiker, who asked to remain anonymous.
The helicopter crew airlifted the father and son out to a Valley hospital.
Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteers had prepared to make a 1,000-foot “nearly vertical rescue” of the teen if the helicopter crew couldn’t get him out, said TRSAR Commander Bill Pitterle.
Two weeks before Saturday’s accident, TRSAR practiced rope rescue techniques at Flowing Springs.
If it had been necessary, they would have used that training to erect a pulley system that can haul a person in a litter up nearly any cliffside.