Crews rescue three people in two separate cliff falls


by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News & Photojournalist KENNETH NULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @JessicaV_KVUE

Posted on August 20, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 20 at 9:35 PM

AUSTIN -- Three people have been rescued after falling off Austin hiking trails.

Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Warren Weidler said a man and woman were walking along the trail off Loop 360 near the Pennybacker Bridge Tuesday when they both fell approximately 30 to 50 feet down the cliff.

Weidler says the woman crawled back up on her own and called 911.

“We started a search down the trail,” said Weidler. “It’s pretty rugged. It’s probably even more rugged at night without lights.”

Firefighters and EMS crews struggled to get access to where the man had fallen.

“It’s a series of cliffs,” described Weidler. “They were having trouble getting access down.”

STAR Flight rescuers were dispatched to assist. The helicopter lowered a rescuer down to where the man had fallen.

“They were able to package the patient, lift them up with the helicopter and go over to the other side of the river where they landed and then they were able to actually put the patient in the helicopter and then continue transport,” said Kevin Harner of Austin-Travis County EMS.

Harner said both the man and woman were taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge. The extent of their injuries hasn’t been released, but they are described as non-life threatening.

Shortly before the rescue along the Pennybacker Bridge, crews were on Mount Bonnell rescuing another woman.

Weidler said hikers in the area called 911 after hearing a woman's calls for help. Weidler say the woman had suffered a medical condition. They were able to help her out and get her to the hospital.

A firefighter cut his hand during that rescue and went to the hospital for treatment.

Harner says both firefighting and EMS crews have specialized training for rescue calls of this nature. Much of the training occurs off the trails near the Pennybacker Bridge.