Rescuer describes dramatic scene after climber fell Monday

by: Dave Faherty Updated:


BURKE COUNTY, N.C. - The climber who fell and was injured in Burke County is doing well in the hospital after being airlifted Monday.

Channel 9 spoke to the first rescuers who reached 23-year-old Jackson Depew on a cliff nearly 200 feet up.
"It was amazing. It was exhilarating. Not too scary,” said Kaleb Nicholson with Burke County Emergency Services.

READ MORE:  Rescuers describe harrowing ordeal at Linville Gorge

One day after making  one of the most difficult rescues of his life, Nicholson was back in the classroom for training. 
That training was put to the test in the Linville Gorge after Jackson Depew fell between 20 and 40 feet.  
Channel 9 has learned he landed on a ledge just 4-by-2 feet across after two of his anchors on the mountainside gave way.

CHOPPER 9: Crews leave after rock climber safely lifted from gorge

  Nicholson repelled down from the top, nearly 200 feet where he says he tried to stabilize the 23-year-old climber and keep him calm after he badly injured his pelvis from the fall.
"He said it was amazing the Blackhawk (helicopter) was coming in but he said he hated it had to be done in those circumstances that he got to ride in one,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson said the biggest challenge was getting the rescuer from the NC Hart team planted safely on the narrow ledge.  All this while dealing with a strong downdraft from the chopper that could possibly send rocks from above down the mountainside.

CHOPPER 9: Crews aid rock climber hanging from rock 

"You've got a lot going through your mind.   Luckily, the patient was under a small crevice and you can see in the video where I leaned over his head and pelvis trying to protect him,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson is most thankful for all the volunteers and other rescuers who got equipment in place in case they decided to raise him up the mountainside for a carryout and not use the chopper.
The difference is that would have taken between 13 and 15 hours while the chopper rescue took about 40 minutes after the Blackhawk arrived on the scene.

IMAGES: Rescuers rappel into Linville Gorge to save rock climber