The Pine Cone's fourth story of the week

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Three rescued after fall from cliff


Published: Dec. 31, 2010

A HOLIDAY at a spectacular oceanfront home near Garrapata Beach turned into a nightmare for one of the vacationers when he fell down a cliff at the property’s edge Monday night and ended up injured on the beach below as the tide came in and threatened to drown him.

Two others who scrambled down the cliff to save him are being hailed as heroes, even though they had to be rescued as well, according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Dennis King.

“They were holding him up out of the water,” he explained.

Firefighters at the Carmel Highlands station received a call around 10:15 p.m. Dec. 27 that a man had fallen over a cliff at a Highway 1 home just south of Garrapata Creek, according to King.

“It’s a house right on the edge of the ocean,” he said. “This individual had been walking out in the backyard of the house and somehow slipped and fell over the side of the hill.”

Initial reports indicated the man had fallen 14 feet, which would have required a fairly routine rescue, but it turned out the situation was not so simple. “The embankment was undercut, and there was a large cave underneath, so that complicated setting up a system to lift him up,” King said.

In addition, the man, whose name was not released, had suffered a head injury and was drifting in and out of consciousness, and he and the two others were freezing in the encroaching surf. “The patient was partially in the water when the paramedic got down there, and the two civilian rescuers were in the water, too, so everyone was wet, cold and hypothermic toward the end,” he said.

Helicopter sent

The whole ordeal took about two hours, according to King. Paramedic/engineer Noelle Bahnmiller and Capt. Sunny Smith handled rescue operations from the base of the cliff, setting up a lift system with a Stokes litter to get the critical patient to safety. When he was about two-thirds of the way up, members of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team arrived and completed the haul by using the winch on their truck.

An ambulance rushed the patient to Carmel Middle School, where a CALSTAR helicopter landed to fly him to the Regional Medical Center of San Jose.

A second ambulance took the other two patients to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula for treatment of scrapes and bruises, as well as hypothermia.

“The gentleman had a back injury that he sustained going down that cliff, and the lady got scratched up going down as well,” King said.

He could not say whether alcohol was a factor