A 13-year-old boy from North Dakota is lucky to be alive after surviving a fall of nearly 100 feet at the Grand Canyon on Tuesday, August 8th.
Wyatt Kauffman was visiting the park with his family and was taking photos at the Bright Angel Point trail, the most popular viewpoint on the North Rim, when he slipped and fell over the edge.
Kauffman had been taking photograph the breathtaking views at an exposed point. He then squatted down and held on to a rock with one hand to get out of the way of other visitors trying to take photos. When he stood up in this precarious location, he the lost balance and plunged over the rim.
Park rangers initiated a rescue operation that took nearly two hours. Due to the steep terrain and hazardous flying conditions, a helicopter rescue was not possible. Instead, emergency crews used ropes and a rescue basket to haul the teenager back up.
Kauffman was airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital for treatment. He had suffered nine broken vertebrae, a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung, a concussion, a broken hand and a dislocated finger. Despite the extensive injuries, he was discharged from the hospital just four days later on Saturday, already walking again — a remarkably fast recovery.
Following the incident, park officials are sending the message that the Grand Canyon can be treacherous. On average, there are 12 fatalities and 329 search and rescue incidents in the park each year — mostly due to environmental hazards like heat exhaustion rather than falls.
The park advises visitors to stay on designated trails, keep a safe distance from the edge, wear appropriate clothing and footwear, carry enough water and food, and be aware of their surroundings.
This near-tragedy serves as an important reminder to always exercise extreme caution when visiting one of the most spectacular but unforgiving landscapes on Earth.