Video footage shows the amazing rescue of a 13-year-old boy who spent hours clinging to slippery rocks on the edge of a 265-foot waterfall in Washington state. KING-TV's Allen Schauffler reports.
A 13-year-old boy rescued from a rock atop a 265-foot waterfall in Washington state says he is alive thanks to luck, brave rescuers and a lesson from a fantasy character.
“The worst waiting game ever," William Hickman of Burien joked to NBC station KING of Seattle after the ordeal. "I'm sitting there freezing cold, on rocks for eight hours straight. I was scared they were going to have to chop off my toes from hypothermia or something!"
Hickman was hiking Saturday with his father, 9-year-old brother and friends above Wallace Middle Falls, near the town of Gold Bar about 45 miles northeast of Seattle. He wanted to cool off.
"I wanted to go in ... just to wade a little bit," Hickman said at a Monday news conference, where he was joined by the people who staged a dramatic, middle-of the night operation.
But he slipped and the whitewater swept him over a 10-foot drop into a deep pool above the waterfall.
In the water, the teen quickly thought of advice from a fantasy-novel character Bobby Pendragon of the Pendragon Adventure books by D.J. MacHale: "Go feet first, stay to the sides and kick off the rocks," the Seattle Times reported.
He managed to scramble onto a narrow rock shelf just before the main falls.
He stayed there, cold and wet, for the next eight and a half hours, Hickman and rescuers said. His father shouted encouragement, telling him he was going to be OK. Rescue crews later tossed him blankets, energy bars and fruit snacks.
William Hickman, 13, almost went over a 265-foot waterfall Sunday.
"He was in a very, very dangerous spot," Snohomish County sheriff's Sgt. Danny Wickstrom, who oversees the agency's search-and-rescue operations, said at the news conference, the Times reported. Almost all rescue operations that close to Wallace Falls involved a fatality, he said.
"I feel lucky I got through it all," Hickman said. "I think the rescuers should feel like heroes; they saved me. I'm lucky to be alive."
Hickman said that once he finished coughing up the water he had swallowed, he realized how precarious his situation was.
"I wasn't really scared until after I got on top of the rock," the boy said. "I was shocked that I landed there, that I was not going to go down and die."
A video shot by a volunteer rescuer shows Hickman huddled on a narrow, sloping rock shelf with his back to the water just above the popular hiking attraction.
Rescuers first tried to reach Hickman by helicopter, but an overhanging rock shelf prevented them from dropping straight down. Instead, a helicopter crew dropped two rescuers 200 yards below him.
The rescuers climbed above the rock overhang, and then worked as a team — one rappelling down, the other belaying. Their goal was just to reach the boy and place him in a harness that would keep him safe until others arrived, said Deputy Bill Quistorf, chief pilot for the Snohomish County sheriff's air support unit.
But the rescue nearly met with disaster. A rope a rescuer was using to rappel down the overhanging rope snapped, and he plunged into the whitewater. Only his secondary rope saved him from going over the big falls, and he made it to shore with minor injuries.
Ten rescuers eventually camped with Hickman overnight, and a sheriff's office helicopter flew them down off the mountain at 6 a.m. Sunday. There was no place for the helicopter to land to pick them up, so the boy and the rescuers rode on a platform hanging from a cable 80 feet below the helicopter.
The teen's mother, Heather Hickman, got a phone call from the teen’s dad Sunday morning.
"Their dad said, 'I got something to tell you about last night, we almost lost William.' I told him he will never take my sons to a river again," Heather Hickman said. "He could've died. We could be having a totally different conversation right now."
This story includes reporting by The Associated Press.
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