A 13-year-old boy is on the mend after falling over 70 feet into the Grand Canyon and living to tell the tale.
Wyatt Kaufman and his North Dakota family visited the Grand Canyon on Tuesday, but their vacation nearly ended in tragedy, when he fell in.
“I was up on the ledge and was moving out of the way so other people could take a picture,” Kaufman detailed.
“I squatted down, and when I was, holding on to a rock. I only had one hand on it,” he explained.
“It wasn’t that good of a grip. It was kinda pushing me back. I lost my grip and started to fall back.”
Kaufman plunged a distance between 70 to 100 feet over the edge of Bright Angel Point near the North Rim of the canyon.
The incident prompted the swift response of the Grand Canyon National Park’s Search and Rescue (SAR) team.
According to the statement released by the National Park Service, the SAR team successfully rappelled down the cliff and used ropes to raise the teenager to safety after determining that a helicopter rescue was not feasible.
The rescue effort, which required multiple agencies and around 40 first responders, took a grueling two hours, which left Wyatt’s father, Brian Kaufman, eagerly awaiting news at home in North Dakota.
“Two hours is an eternity in a situation like that, but when they have to repel down the cliff and get them out of the out of the canyon in a basket. We’re extremely grateful for the work of everyone,” he told 12 News.
“It was one of the most heart-wrenching phone calls I’ve ever had to be honest with you.”
Wyatt was raised to the rim of the canyon by rope and subsequently airlifted to a pediatric trauma center in Las Vegas.
He was treated for nine broken vertebrae, a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung, a concussion, a broken hand, and dislocated finger over the course the a week, before being discharged on Saturday.
Wyatt, who is an only child, doesn’t have clear memories about what what happened to him during the two hour rescue.
“After the fall, I don’t remember anything after that,” he recalled. “I just remember somewhat waking up and being in the back of an ambulance and a helicopter and getting on a plane and getting here.”
His traumatized parents are thrilled that the accident didn’t end in tragedy, and plan to road trip home to North Dakota.
“We’re just lucky we’re bringing our kid home in a car in the front seat. Instead of in a box,” Brian stated.