Teenager tumbles down 40’, after fall off Rocky Butte cliff

Officials say they’re still puzzled why she was walking in the area after dark …

A member of the Portland Fire & Rescue “High Angle Rescue” team makes his way down a 40’ cliff face on Rocky Butte, hoping to find the victim of a fall. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

By David F. Ashton
Perhaps it’s because of the view from NE Fremont Street, that wraps around into NE Rocky Butte Road, on the eastern edge of the Madison South neighborhood, that attracts young people to the area after dark.

But, the narrow strip of land that snakes along the east side of this outer East Portland street is extremely dangerous – it leads to an unprotected, sheer cliff face, with a 40-foot drop off.

Just after 11:00 p.m. on September 12, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) was called to the scene after someone called the 9-1-1 Center reporting that a person had fallen down Rocky Butte.

Two rescue crew members carry a litter toward a seriously injured – but still alive – patient at the base of the cliff. Greg Muhr, PF&R photo

“Responding to reports of a young woman over the edge of Rocky Butte, the PF&R technical rescue team arrived on scene just minutes later,” said PF&R Assistant PIO Gabriel Watson. “Because Rocky Butte is a large area, fire crews decided to send companies both to the top of the cliff and to the bottom, in anticipation of the technical rescue.”

A “technical rescue”, Watson said, is performed by a group of firefighters with specialized training for rescuing victims in steep or rugged terrain; often referred to as a “High-Angle Rescue”.

Specially-trained Firefighter/Paramedics carefully secure the fall victim in the litter. Greg Muhr, PF&R photo

“Topside crews searched the area in the vicinity of where the woman was believed to have fallen near,” Watson continued. “Topside firefighters searching with large lights located the patient at the base of the cliffs more than 40′ below.”

Fortunately, crews reported that the woman appeared to still be alive.

“Two firefighter/paramedics were lowered to the patient from above using a high-angle rope rescue system,” Watson said. “Upon reaching the patient, firefighters reported that she was in urgent need of evacuation and began treating her many injuries.”

Rescuers placed the young woman, said to be in her early teens, into rescue litter. Firefighters carried her approximately 1/3 of a mile to the awaiting ambulance where she was transported to Emanuel Hospital with life-threatening injuries, Watson said.

Suffering “life-threatening injuries”, victim is readied for transport to the hospital. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

“At the time of this release Investigators do not know what caused woman to fall,” Watson noted.

“Our parks are a wonderful source of recreation–they can turn deadly in an instant,” warned Watson. “Hikers should stick to established pathways, follow posted signage and steer away cliffs or unknown areas–especially during the evening when visibility is limited.”

> On our Front Page: PF&R Photographer Dick Harris captures this member of the PF&R Technical Rescue team lowering himself down the cliff face at Rocky Butte.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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