Injured Grand Canyon hiker says friends never abandoned him

An Apache Junction man who was rescued at the Grand Canyon sets the record straight and says his friends didn't abandon him.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 4:56 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Bill Formanek is an experienced hiker whose adventures have taken him worldwide. But his recent trip to the Grand Canyon stands out for all the wrong reasons.

“I put my right arm out to kind of steady myself, and my foot slipped,” said Formanek. “I went to the left, hit a boulder, and it dislocated the shoulder.”

Last Friday night, the 63-year-old Apache Junction man had to be airlifted out of the Grand Canyon after separating his shoulder during a hike with his friends. According to Formanek, he hurt himself walking along a trail with one of his buddies around 2 p.m. while their three other friends were a few miles ahead. The retired engineer told his buddy to leave him and find their friends, who had satellite tracking devices and could call for help.

“My thought was, the only chance of rescue was going to be when it was light out, so I was hoping he could get message out and I could get rescued before dark,” said Formanek.

That is precisely what happened.

A Department of Public Safety chopper spotted the injured hiker at about 8:30 p.m. that night and flew him to safety. The next day, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office posted about the incident on social media. It stated that the four other hikers “continued their backpack adventures,”.... “leaving the injured hiker behind.”

Formanek says that wasn’t and wants to set the record straight. “It was very devastating because they, in my view, had done everything possible and the right thing to get me rescued as quickly as possible,” said Formanek. “I was baffled how did they come up with that story?”

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office stands by its account of what happened.

The injured hiker is thankful for what deputies did to help rescue him but thinks there must have been miscommunication when he was interviewed. “Some people will say you never leave a hiker alone,” said Formanek. “There’s always exceptions to the rule.”

Formanek hopes that sharing his story will remind hikers to always take precautions, including having a good cell phone or satellite tracking device.

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