Hiker rescued after fall from Bells Canyon waterfall

Published: Monday, June 21 2010 12:23 a.m. MDT

A Life Flight helicopter lifts off from Bells Canyon carrying the injured hiker on Sunday.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SANDY — Swiftly rushing water was tugging on a South Jordan man, threatening to pull him into a raging creek after he fell while hiking on Sunday.

But thanks to what one rescuer called "a miracle," the man survived.

The 58-year-old man had tried to jump to a nearby ledge and lost his balance on slippery rocks, falling 30 to 40 feet from a top point at a Bells Canyon waterfall. Masour Ariazand tumbled several tiers down into the swift, icy water.

Suzanne Jansen had a working cell phone when the victim's friend reached her, and while dialing 911, she saw him fall farther and become submerged in the water. She handed the phone over and went running to Ariazand, lifting his head out of the water.

"When I got his head out of the water, he said, 'No hope,' " the Salt Lake woman said. "I kissed his forehead and said, 'There's always hope.' "

The next hour was precarious as Jansen and her boyfriend and hiking comrade, Jim Muller, tried to rescue Ariazand as the icy water raced around them.

Within 10 minutes, Jansen said her legs were going numb, and another hiker, Jill Anderson, took her place in attempts to free the 200-pound victim, whose pants had ripped and become caught in the logs.

Muller said they succeeded in turning over Ariazand, who had at least two broken bones and was bleeding from his head.

"I was holding his left hand, Jill his right hand, and we had moved his leg to a log. We had as many of his extremities out of the water as possible," Muller said. "His head was rested on my chest, but we couldn't move him anymore. It was very slippery, and the current was very swift."

The victim, drifting in and out of consciousness, went from begging his rescuers to take him out of the water to saying he wanted to tell his wife he loved her, Jansen said.

"He talked about his children," Jansen said. "You could tell that's what gave him that inner strength and pulled him through. This was a true Father's Day miracle."

During this struggle, Sandy fire rescue personnel were trying to reach Ariazand. Winds made it impossible for a helicopter to land, and rescuers had to hike into Bells Canyon before they could reach the man.

When they finally reached Ariazand, who had been in the water long enough to risk hypothermia, rescuers put a life vest on him and hoisted him out carefully on a board.

The slippery rocks made carrying him out difficult, but Jansen said Ariazand was happy to be out of the water. Sandy fire crews, with the help of Unified Police search and rescue personnel who arrived, carried him for about 90 minutes to Lower Bells Canyon Reservoir. From there, a helicopter took Ariazand to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.

"It took us roughly six hours to get him out," Sandy Fire Capt. Chris Dawson said. "The terrain he was at was very vertical, very rough."

Dawson said rescue crews usually help about three to six people out of the canyon every year, but this incident was "one of the most serious."

"It's usually someone who's tripped and broken a leg," he said. "To my knowledge, we've never had anyone fall into the waterfall."

Jansen was just glad to be in the right place at the right time.

"He wanted to hang on for his kids. When we were getting to the ambulance car, his daughter was there and said, 'Please tell me where my father is so I can just touch him,' " Jansen said. "That got to me.

"I think everything happens for a reason," she said. "There's definitely a higher power, and I think we all were meant to be there."

Contributing: Paul Koepp

e-mail: lgroves@desnews.com Twitter: dnewscrimeteam

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS