Mitchell man 'glad to be alive' after cliff fallJeremy Drapeaux, of Mitchell, hit his head when he fell off Falling Rock cliff on Saturday and lost his eyesight for about three hours.
RAPID CITY (AP) — A 32-year-old man who fell off a cliff west of Rapid City and plunged 30 feet says he's glad to be alive.
Jeremy Drapeaux, of Mitchell, hit his head when he fell off Falling Rock cliff on Saturday and lost his eyesight for about three hours. If he hadn't rolled when he hit a ledge, the outcome might have been worse, he told the Rapid City Journal.
“I must have lost my footing,” he said Monday from a hospital intensive care unit. “I'm just glad to be alive.”
Pennington County Sheriff's Department officials said Drapeaux landed on a small outcropping after falling around 30 feet, and that it spared him from falling farther. The fall left him unconscious and struggling for breath.
After being stabilized, Drapeaux was loaded into a rescue basket by Pennington County Search and Rescue personnel and winched up the cliff's edge to a waiting ambulance. He didn't break any bones.
“I hit my head pretty hard, and it was cut open, but wasn't enough to require stitches,” he said. “I'm glad I rolled the right way, otherwise it could have been pretty bad.”
Falling Rock, which is on Black Hills National Forest land off S.D. Highway 44, is where an 8-year-old boy died in 2005 after falling about 150 feet. Hikers also have died at the cliffs in 2006, 2002, 2001, and 1992. Others have suffered serious injuries.
In 2009, 20-year-old Jake Wegner of Rapid City lost his footing and tumbled more than 100 feet into the gorge.
More than 2½ years after the incident, Wegner is still recovering and was cleared just this week to return to work. He broke bones in his neck and back and had a fractured shoulder blade, arm, hand, thumb and several toes.
“It still amazes me that people don't take precautions up there,” Wegner said. “In a split second, you could lose your footing and take a tumble. You can't stop because the cliff is so steep. That's what I did, and at the end it drops off even further.”
Even with the string of accidents, the area shouldn't be closed off, said Tammy Stadel, who was part of the search and rescue team that responded to Saturday's fall.
“It's a beautiful area, but you just need to be careful,” Stadel said. “You just need to recognize that they are huge cliffs and be aware of the dangers of being in that area.”