KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An 18-year-old hiker who tumbled 60 to 70 feet over a cliff at a quarry in Missouri's Ozarks landed on an outcrop that spared her an additional 100-foot drop to her likely death, one of her rescuers said Wednesday.
But that ledge — jutting just 20 feet out from the cliff wall — was among a few things the victim might want to credit for her survival Monday night during an ill-fated hike with two others, Highlandville Rural Fire Protection District Chief Kevin Stephens said.
The young woman repeatedly brushed against the cliff wall during her fall, slowing her momentum, Stephens said. And the volunteer firefighters who rescued her happened to be gathered that night for training, hastening their ability to mobilize and respond to the quarry near a popular state conservation area about 20 miles south of Springfield.
"She's very lucky," Stephens told The Associated Press by telephone. "It's probably in the neighborhood of 160 to 200 feet from the top of the bluff to the very bottom. About halfway up there's that ledge. If it hadn't been there, she'd have gone all the way down. And that could have killed her."
Stephens said the girl was conscious but "pretty confused and disoriented" with labored breathing by the time firefighters reached her and hauled her out on a backboard to a medical helicopter that flew her to a hospital.
Officials have not revealed the identity of the teenager nor details of her injuries.
"The last I heard, she was in serious to critical condition," Stephens said, awed by the victim's resilience. "I've been with this department 27 years and chief since 2008, and I've never had this type of incident over that time. We train for it, but fortunately we never had to put it to work at an actual scene until that night."