NORTHFIELD CENTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio – A local teen-ager who took a potentially deadly plunge from the top of a steep cliff lined with dangerous rocks and cold water was rescued with the help of onlookers who witnessed the entire incident, 19/43 News' David Wittman reported.
The 14-year-old boy, whose name is not being released because of his young age, was pulled from the water at the bottom of Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Summit County.
At approximately 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, authorities received the first call, and sent emergency crews out immediately. Even before they got there, however, the risky rescue operation had already started.
Immediately after the boy fell more than 60 feet from the top of the falls, onlookers at the scene started plotting their rescue. Matt Whited and his cousin, who were there with their children to see the falls, were able to get the boy from out of the cold water.
"I just saw the kid drop like a rag doll down the falls," Whited said. "I assumed that he wasn't going to be alive, but he coughed up everything in his lungs and started to breathe. He was unconscious, but he was breathing, and I was just telling him to hold on.
"He obviously suffered some sort of trauma. His head hit the rocks about three or four times coming down."
When paramedics showed up, they executed a heroic rope rescue up the steep creek to get the boy to the point where they could put him on a stretcher and put in a Life Flight helicopter. The boy was then transported to Children's Hospital of Akron.
"They had enough sense to get him out of the water," Summit County Sheriff's Department Sgt. John Karabatsos said about Whited and his cousin. "They did some very heroic things. Had it not been for them, who knows?"
The rescue was tough-and-go for a while because of the dangerous conditions facing the Summit County Technical Rescue Operations Team.
"They had all of the rocks and steep inclines to deal with," Barberton Fire Department Lt. Rob Pursley said.
"(The boy) was in serious condition," Northfield Center Fire Department Chief Denny Potter said. "The rocks down there are slippery and the water can go anywhere from a few inches (moss-covered) to four or five feet."
National Park Service ranger Cheryl Hess said that the group of boys which included the 14-year-old boy got too close to the falls despite many signs and plenty of fencing.
"We have numerous signs throughout the area saying do not go over the fencing because it could cause severe injuries," Hess said.