Woman falls from cliff during rappel, Life Flight responds

A 25-year-old St. George woman was injured Tuesday in a rappelling accident on Prophecy Wall, Washington County, Utah, March 1, 2017 | Stock composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A simple miscommunication triggered a rappelling accident that injured a St. George woman Tuesday night in a popular rock climbing area 18 miles north of St. George.

A 25-year-old St. George woman is injured Tuesday in a rappelling accident on Prophecy Wall, Washington County, Utah, March 1, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue via Facebook, St. George News

A 25-year-old woman fell while climbing with three other people in the Prophecy Wall area near Dammeron Valley and Upper Sand Cove Reservoir, Washington County Search and Rescue Liaison Darrell Cashin said.

The accident occurred as the woman was rappelling down from the top of a cliff with a group of friends, all in their 20s and from Washington County. The call for help came in about 6:40 p.m.

Three of the friends had already rappelled down, Cashin said, and the woman was on top getting ready to make the rappel.

“There was a little bit of wind blowing, and she asked if they were ready,” he said. “They said, ‘No, we’re not ready,’ but all she heard was ‘ready,’ and she went over. And she wasn’t being belayed; they hadn’t grabbed the belay.”

A belay is a second rope, separate from the one being used to rappel, that is controlled by another person and is used in case the person rappelling loses control of their descent. In this case, the climbers were being belayed from below by the other climbers.

“She leaned back and started to go,” Cashin said. But the woman lost her grip on the rope and started to free fall.

A 25-year-old St. George woman is injured Tuesday in a rappelling accident on Prophecy Wall, Washington County, Utah, March 1, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue via Facebook, St. George News

The woman fell about 40 feet before her companions grabbed the belay rope and were able to stop her fall, leaving her dangling from a rope and still only part of the way down the cliff.

“When they stopped the free fall, it swung her into the cliff face,” Cashin said.

The woman put her leg out as she hit the wall and injured it.

“They said she didn’t respond for about 15 seconds or so,” Cashin said, “so she was stunned, I’m sure.”

One of her companions climbed up, and the group was able to lower the woman the rest of the way to the ground and call for help.

She’s lucky she didn’t make the whole fall,” Cashin said. “Seriously.”

Several members of the Washington County Search and Rescue responded to the incident, along with Dammeron Valley Fire Department and Gold Cross Ambulance.

Cashin said he wasn’t sure if the woman was rappelling from the top of the cliff or from somewhere lower down when the fall occurred. Climbers often make multiple rappels down a cliff using an anchor.

The group looked to be well-prepared, he said, and the incident was simply an accident.

It’s just one of those unfortunate accidents – there was a miscommunication. And when she lost control of her rappel, there was nobody belaying her.”

The woman was in stable condition, conscious and talking at the scene, Cashin said, but had possible back and leg injuries.

Intermountain Life Flight was called as a precaution when the incident was first reported and ended up transporting the woman to Dixie Regional Medical Center. The base of the cliffs was still about 200-300 feet up a scree slope, Cashin said, and as a result, all the rescuers had to climb the loose scree slope to reach the woman and stabilize her for transport in a Stokes basket. The basket was secured by rope due to the steepness of the slope.

The rescue operation was wrapped up by about 9:30 p.m., Cashin said, and included five or six people from the Dammeron Valley Fire Department, nine Washington County Search and Rescue members along with a patrol sergeant and a lieutenant, two Gold Cross Ambulance workers and three people with Life Flight.

“If it’s something like that, we need a lot of manpower because we have to carry,” Cashin said, “but it worked well. I was pleased with everybody and all the agencies worked really well together.”

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • Bender March 1, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    On belay? Belay on. On rappel.

    • Paul March 1, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      READY?
      What? Can’t hear you…the wind’s too loud!
      not READY!

      • Bender March 1, 2017 at 7:50 pm

        Yeah, I think the proper response is a simple “NOOOOOO!!!!”.

  • comments March 1, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Probably a few broken bones nothing too serious, but that’s an idiotic mistake, and really there’s no excuse for it. Don’t go mountaineering with idiots, lesson learned.

  • debbie March 2, 2017 at 5:27 am

    this is positively and negative story.

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