(NEXSTAR) — A 13-year-old North Dakota boy has survived a fall of nearly 100 feet at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon during a family trip.
Authorities said it took emergency crews two hours to rescue Wyatt Kauffman after he slipped on a cliff Tuesday and plunged nearly 100 feet at the Bright Angel Point trail.
The teenager was airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital for treatment of nine broken vertebrae plus a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung, a concussion, and a broken hand and dislocated finger.
“I was up on the ledge and was moving out of the way so other people could take a picture,” Kauffman told Phoenix TV station KPNX. “I squatted down and was holding onto a rock. I only had one hand on it.
“It wasn’t that good of a grip. It was kind of pushing me back. I lost my grip and started to fall back,” he added.
Rescue crews had to rappel down the cliff and get the injured boy out of the canyon in a basket.
“I just remember somewhat waking up and being in the back of an ambulance and a helicopter and getting on a plane and getting here” to the hospital, said Kauffman.
Brian Kauffman was in North Dakota when he heard about his son’s fall and rescue.
A National Park Service search and rescue team set up a rope rescue down to the steep and narrow trail and raised the teen safely to the rim.
“I can say with great confidence that they put to use advanced medical skills in an austere environment that are rarely executed in most other places,” said Meghan Smith, Preventive Search and Rescue Supervisor, in a news release. “It’s clear that their training and hard work paid off, leading to a smooth, timely operation that will no doubt lead to better outcomes for this patient.”
“We’re extremely grateful for the work of everyone. Two hours is an eternity in a situation like that,” Brian Kauffman said.
He said Wyatt and his mother were on a trip to visit national parks when the Grand Canyon fall occurred.
Brian Kauffman said his son was discharged from the hospital Saturday and was being driven home.
“We’re just lucky we’re bringing our kid home in a car in the front seat instead of in a box,” Brian Kauffman told KPNX.
Wyatt and his mom were expected to reach Casselton, North Dakota, on Tuesday.
Grand Canyon National Park officials issued a news release about the boy’s “incredible” story of survival but also warned visitors to be cautious.
“Although beautiful and popular, the Bright Angel Point Trail is also exposed, narrow, and surprisingly steep,” the statement read. “Visitors are reminded to stay on designated trails and walkways and always keep a safe distance of at least six feet (2 m) from the edge of the rim. In areas where there is a railing or fence, do not climb over any barrier.”
On August 22, 2022, a 44-year-old man walking off trail fell over the edge along the North Rim, plunging roughly 200 feet to his death. Park rangers found the man’s body below Bright Angel Point.
According to the Park Service, the Grand Canyon’s Search and Rescue Team responds to more than 300 calls on average each year for emergencies that include falls, heat exhaustion, fatigue, and more.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.