Hiker from Cedar City flown to hospital after falling 20 feet in Portal Canyon

ST. GEORGE — A Cedar City man is in extremely critical condition after suffering significant head injuries when he fell more than 20 feet Thursday while hiking in a deep canyon within the Virgin River Gorge basin in Mohave County, Arizona.

Mercy Air Transport flies above Interstate 15 with critically injured hiker who fell more than 20 feet off rock side in Portal Canyon, Mohave County, Ariz., Feb. 4, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire and Rescue, St. George News

Shortly before 10 a.m. emergency dispatch received a call reporting that a 62-year-old hiker had fallen off the side of a steep cliff after he grabbed onto a boulder that came loose and slipped out from under him. Both the hiker and the rock fell more than 20 feet to the ground below. The hiker lost consciousness and appeared to have suffered a traumatic head injury.

Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire Chief Jeff Hunt told St. George News the hiker and a friend had traveled from their homes in Cedar City to spend the day hiking in Portal Canyon when the accident took place.

Due to the seriousness of the injuries and the location where the hiker fell, Hunt said the Arizona Department of Public Safety deployed a helicopter from Flagstaff to possibly short haul the hiker out of the canyon, while Mercy Air launched from one of its bases in Mesquite.

Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell Cashin said their search and rescue team was also notified, and a high-angle rope rescue team was assembled and dispatched to the canyon, along with two emergency medical technicians. After a 45-minute hike, the team made it to the injured man, who had shallow breathing and was still unconscious. The medical team provided initial emergency treatment for what appeared to be multiple head fractures and massive trauma.

When the Arizona DPS helicopter arrived in the canyon, they were unable to find a safe place to land, and the hiker was instead loaded into a Stokes basket attached to a line below the helicopter and flown to where the Mercy Air helicopter was waiting. He was then flown to St. George Regional Hospital in “extremely, extremely critical condition,” Hunt said.

Due to the complicated nature of the rescue, the amount of equipment and personnel needed and the area where the fall took place, it was nearly four hours from the initial 911 call to the time the hiker was on his way to the hospital.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire and Rescue, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Washington County Search and Rescue and Mercy Air Medical Transport responded and assisted in the rescue.

This report is based on statements from police, emergency personnel or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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