Valley man rescued from Sycamore Canyon shares his story

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A man who was saved in Sycamore Canyon spoke about what he did right and what he regretted. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A man who was saved in Sycamore Canyon spoke about what he did right and what he regretted. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The man rescued Sunday morning in Sycamore Canyon says if it weren't for a map he left behind and his family following through on the return time he provided, he might still be lying out there where he fell.

The 34-year-old asked not to be identified but agreed to share what happened to him.

The day started off well. He was planning to hike the Packard Parsons Loop. He made it to some ruins and cliff dwellings, had lunch and then was hiking down the canyon the dwellings overlooked when disaster struck.

"I took my backpack off with all of my supplies to get something out of it and I slipped and my backpack stayed at the top and I went down," the hiker said.

After collecting himself, he realized he was in bad shape.

He suffered a fractured pelvis, tailbone and both wrists after he says he slipped and fell about 10 to 15 feet.

"My right wrist is pretty bad. The bone was kind of popping out. It didn't break the skin but it was, you can see the bone before the shock wore off I pushed the bone back into place and then tried to stand up and couldn't. Then realized I was not walking out of there," the hiker said.

The only items he had with him were his firearm and his cell phone but he says he could barely move.

"I inched my way over to the edge of the rocks, grabbed a stick, attached my phone to it and lifted it as high as I could," he said adding, "it showed one bar intermittently so I dialed 911 but the call never went through. I did that for a few hours until my battery started to drain."

At that point, he tried to see if there was anyone on the trail below him. There wasn't so he lay there trying to plot his next move.

Before he set out on his trip, he had left a map for his brother of where he was going. He also wrote down the time that he planned to be back at 6 p.m.

"I was completely unfamiliar with this trail. I'd never been there before and I just, you know, I've heard if you're going to be hiking, somebody should know where you're going to be," he said.

Still, he wasn't sure if his brother was paying attention or remembered. His brother was, and did.

"I got a call from my other brother right at 6 saying he's not back yet," the hiker's sister said. "Initially, we didn't panic. We thought his phone died, maybe he's just on his way home, no big deal. But once it started to get dark around 7:30, we started to get concerned."

That's when she says she called the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office and they responded immediately.

"They went out and located his truck because my brother was smart enough to leave the map with the trail head, so they found his truck and knew he was still out there," she said.

According to the Sheriff's Office, "The YCSO Forest Patrol deputy began coordinating the search effort which included the use of a DPS Ranger Rescue helicopter along with 10 ground searchers from the Verde Search and Rescue Team and Yavapai County Search and Rescue’s (YCSRT) Back Country unit."

The hiker said he saw a helicopter fly by pretty late and pretty low which made him believe his family had followed through and called for help. He said he was pretty sure that helicopter was looking for him.

"I got my cell phone back out and turned it back on and they couldn't see the flashlight and they flew past," he said.

They circled back and he showed his flashlight again.

Then he says he, "shot a round off in the air and then they came toward me but talking to the pilot later he said he didn't even see the gun. He ended up seeing the flashlight."

He says he gave them a thumbs up to let them know he was OK. Due to the precarious position he was in and the fact that it was dark, it wasn't safe to attempt a rescue at that point.

"They came back and dropped off a bag of some supplies and in the bag was a radio, took me a while to get the bag open with my teeth and my broken hand but once I got the radio out the pilot was trying to say something to me but I couldn't make it out. It was too staticky so I just said 'thank you' and they took off again."

He would end up staying out on the ledge in the freezing cold elements until daylight on Sunday when the crews were able to return and safely rappel down to rescue him.

We asked if he thought there was a chance he might not make it out.

"I mean, I thought I could have died I suppose. I mean it happens to a lot of people, probably statistically speaking more people die than get saved in those kinds of situations," He said.

His sister says the Sheriff's Office was in communication with them throughout the search.

"When I got the news that they'd found him and they found him alive it was the best Mother's Day gift I could have given my mom. It was a huge relief," she said.

After being rescued, the hiker was transferred from one helicopter to another then flown to Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment where he remained as of Tuesday. He is hoping to be released sometime Wednesday to return to Phoenix.

"For all intents and purposes I think I'll recover fully and I'll get back to hiking," he said.

During the rescue, he and his family repeatedly thanked the crews who found him and got him out of there.

"I was told a number of the rescuers looking for me that night were volunteers, so I'm going to ask how I can become a volunteer once I'm fully recovered," he said.

As for things he could have done better, the first he said was to do more research. He thought there would be more people out there.

"That was mistake No. 1," he said.

His advice if you're going somewhere remote like that, go with a friend, and he said to bring more than one way of signaling for help.

The Sheriff's Office suggests a personal location device which operates off of satellite technology and that can be attached to your clothing.

"I'm just really glad that I left that map for my brother and I'm glad that he followed through and made that phone call. Otherwise, I'd still probably be laying [sic] out there," He said.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Amanda GoodmanAmanda Goodman joined Arizona’s Family in May 2014.

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