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Man falls 75 feet from cliff

November 08, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

SANDY HOOK - A Washington, D.C., college student was flown to Washington County Hospital Sunday afternoon after falling about 75 feet during a rock climb in the Maryland Heights area of southern Washington County.

Potomac Valley Fire Department Deputy Chief Arnold Martin said a fall was reported about 1:19 p.m. in the Sandy Hook area. Martin said the man, whose identity was not released, was about 75 feet up the face of a 200-foot cliff when he fell.

Martin said it is unclear what caused the man's fall.

"People he was with said he was climbing and then just fell. They're really not sure what happened, either," Martin said.

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The fall occurred inside Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, said park Public Information Officer Marsha Wassel. The park has property in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.

Wassel said the man is a 19-year-old Arizona native who is attending college in Washington, D.C. Wassel said the man's name was not available to her Sunday evening.

Wassel said the victim had serious, undisclosed injuries and was flown to Washington County Hospital for treatment in its trauma center.

Wassel said that in cases involving such a substantial fall, there is serious concern about internal injuries or shock.

"Because (of) the height of the fall, the possibility of internal injuries is high," she said.

Rangers and emergency responders at the scene said the victim's injuries appeared to be serious and that he had "obvious broken bones" from the impact, Wassel said.

The man's rescue was complicated by the fact that he fell to a rock ledge rather than to ground level, Wassel said. She said he was "hung up in a tree" on the ledge.

Wassel said rescuers performed a technical rope rescue - climbing the rock, securing the victim and lowering him to safety. He was taken to an ambulance and later flown to Hagerstown.

Martin said the victim was flown to the hospital just before 3 p.m.

Martin said Maryland Heights is popular with rock climbers, and that such falls are reported about once a year.

"It's really not something that happens every weekend," he said.

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