Fernie Search and Rescue

'Luckiest kid ever' survives 30m fall

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The Free Press
August 2007


Northeast of Fernie. Amazingly his only injuries were a few bumps and bruises.

A local hiker who tumbled down a waterfall, barely remembers his brush with death, as he blacked out just moments before his fall.

"When I came to I thought I had fallen a few feet over the bank, I had no idea I had been thrown 30-40 meters down the falls," stated Lincoln Tennisco.

"It's just unbelievable how it happened, how lucky he is, how he walked out of it with just a concussion, some bumps, bruises and scratches, (he's) the luckiest kid ever," said friend Patrick James (PJ) Mclsaac, one of the trio of hikers.

On August 4 .Fernie Search and Rescue, B.C. Ambulance and the Elk Valley RCMP were called out to rescue Tennisco, who was hiking with two friends on Heiko's Trail, off of Hartley Lake Rd., at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

What began as a casual Saturday afternoon hike, on the trail that starts three km north west of Hartley Lake below Mount Hosmer, quickly turned into a life and death situation for Tennisco.

Approximately 30 minutes into the hike Tennisco, who had gone ahead of his two friends, was standing above 'Jumping Waters' Waterfall looking out at the view.

With little recollection of the incident, he vaguely remembers leaning against a tree, everything going blurry and then waking up unbearably cold, in a pool of water.

Having never experienced a black-out before, he can't attribute this event to anything in particular, he was well hydrated and generally feeling good up until the incident. Further medical testing will be done in the following weeks, to assess brain activity, said Tennisco.

"Being completely unconscious probably broke my fall, not being rigid when I hit," he said.

"He hit the ground and then bounced off the rock bed where the water comes out of the mountain," said Mclsaac. "And it (the current) just took him 40 feet to the edge and then he just went over with so much momentum."

Thinking the worst at that point as they helplessly watched their friend being swept over the edge of the falls, Tennisco's companions raced to the bottom of the waterfall to find him immersed in a pool of water, unconscious and bleeding from his head. The two men were able to extract him from the water and resuscitate him.

"It took everything we had," said Mclsaac. "The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was lifting him out of that pool, the water was freezing, the falls were pounding on us and we couldn't get a foot hold on the slippery rocks."

Although they were aware that Tennisco had suffered a broken back just two years previous, they had no choice but to move him out of the water. Mclsaac ran for help while Sean Neufield stayed with their friend, keeping him awake.

Three young girls, who were also hiking the trail, happened upon the accident. They were equipped with a first aid kit and an emergency blanket. They stayed with the Tennisco and Neufield until Mclssac made it back from notifying Fernie Search and Rescue. The rescue squad and paramedics arrived approximately an hour and a half after Tennisco's fall.

He was put on a spine board but the pitch was so steep and the terrain so rugged, a rescue helicopter had to be flown in from Golden to perform a long-line lift as Fernie Search and Rescue is not equipped for such an operation.

It was approximately another three hours before the long-line helicopter reached the scene.

Tennisco was air lifted out and taken to an area where he was transferred to another helicopter. He was subsequently flown to Cranbrook Hospital, where he spent one night for observation.

"A two hour hike top to bottom turned into a nine hour full evacuation," said Mclsaac. "A bad thing happened but a lot of good things came out of it."

Tennisco would like to thank everyone who participated in the rescue efforts.

This web site has been created by and is provided by VolunteerRescue of SKRPC Holdings Inc., Fernie, BC, Canada.