I caught this on the news the other day and thought it was kinda awesome (the saving, not the falling). The kid is going to see his dad as a superhero.
Salem father leaps after young son when child slips from Silver Falls trailMaxine Bernstein, The Oregonian 07/25/2011 6:44 PM
Witnesses watched in fright as a young boy slid off a trail behind South Falls at Silver Falls State Park early Sunday evening. As the boy’s mother screamed hysterically, the boy’s father ignored his fear of heights and jumped over the railing after him.
The father slid on his back down the steep grass-covered rocks to reach his child. They both came to a stop on a ledge about 70 feet below the trail, and avoided splashing into the pool at the bottom of the 177-foot waterfall.
“I just jumped without looking or thinking,” said Ramiro Vallejo, 23. “All I wanted to do was catch up to him.”
Witness Jason Wishert said he was stunned by the dad’s quick reaction.
“The father was fearless,” he said. “It was a miracle the child wasn’t badly hurt.”
Wishert was on a hike, taking photos with his iPhone. He had walked past the couple and their child. Suddenly, Wishert said he heard a woman’s blood-curdling screams.
“I saw the boy. He was tumbling head over heels,” Wishert recalled. “And, without hesitating, the father jumped over the railing, and was able to maintain a controlled skid on his back.”
Vallejo, his wife Ana Vasquez, 20, and their son, Emmanuel, decided at the last-minute Sunday to go to the park. They arrived about 2:30 p.m. They’d been there once before, but their son was too young to accompany them on a trail. This time, he was excited to join them.
They were headed back along the path behind South Falls, when Emmanuel asked for juice. His mom put down her soda, and handed him a juice. In the instant she turned away from him, she heard him say, “Mommy, look, I’m sitting down.”
She turned and saw him slide off the lower railing.
“He was rolling, rolling, really fast,” she said.
She screamed his name.
“I thought if he heard me, he’d try to hold on to something and stop,” Vasquez said.Â
Vallejo heard his wife yelling their son’s name. “I saw him tip over. I ran to the rail,” he said.
Then he jumped over it, not looking at what was below, grabbing onto the grass as he slid.
“All I did was keep an eye on him,” Vallejo said. “I didn’t look where I was stepping.”
Vasquez kept screaming as she scrambled down a side trail to get to the bottom.
“I thought the worst,” she said.
Vallejo, hurtling along after his son, saw the child suddenly stop. “I think he grabbed onto something. He slowed down, and I was able to catch up.”
Vallejo laid back against the slope, holding his son, who was crying. He said the grass was covered with mist, and slippery, and he wasn’t sure if he should inch his way down or climb back up the slope.
“All I did was try to hold him, try to calm him down,” Vallejo said. “I’m here with you, I told him.”
A family taking photos below was able to reach the two, and helped them get down. Vallejo carried his son to a nearby bridge, where he met his wife.
“He was telling me to hug him really, really hard, and he was squeezing me really, really hard,” Vasquez said. “But he had a big smile on his face.”
Fire Chief Fred Patterson, of Drake’s Crossing Fire District, responded to a 4:59 p.m. 9-1-1 call for help at the park, and found the father carrying the boy up the path toward the parking lot.
“Miraculously, it was a couple of scratches and bumps and bruises,” Patterson said. “Their vital signs were all good and normal…It all came out good.”
The young Salem couple took their son to a hospital in Salem, where he was checked out for head injuries. They were thankful he had only a couple of scratches on his back and above his nose.
Park Manager Kevin Strandberg said he had inspected the double-railing and trail two weeks earlier, and the trail itself was upgraded this year to a fresh gravel surface to provide more traction. “It is definitely a high-use area that we keep a close eye on,” Strandberg said.
Patterson advises parents to keep a sharp watch on children. Vasquez said she had tried to keep her son on the side of the trail, away from the slope and falls.
“If a parent, literally, doesn’t have a hold of their child, considering the topography that’s there, there are possibilities,” Patterson said. “The best thing is, if you’re going to go hiking on the trail with kids, keep hold of them.” Â
After a sleepless night, Emmanuel’s father returned to work Monday at Valley Hay Exports, where he drives a fork-lift. The father said he has been fearful of heights since he was a boy, when he was afraid to climb trees.
“I couldn’t take that picture out of my head, of my son rolling down the slope. What would have happened if I just stood there? I don’t know how I managed to put those fears aside,” he said. “I’m just thankful my son’s here with us today.”
– Maxine Bernstein