POWELL COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — A camper in his late 20s was rescued Tuesday after falling from a steep cliff and becoming stranded on a ledge while collecting firewood on Twin Arch Trail at Red River Gorge.
Cameron Shepard, who came away from the ordeal with only a few minor scrapes, said he's now been inspired to join the team that helped save him.
"He was impressed by us. I was impressed by him. His humor never stopped," Powell County Search and Rescue Instant Command team member Lisa Johnson said. "This gentleman was lucky, we're getting him on our team so we're lucky that it all worked out great. It could have been a devastating night."
Shepard documented his experience after the fall while he was stranded on a 6-inch ledge.
"I fell over there and had to grab on to that branch," he explained in a video posted to Facebook. "It hurt. But I'm glad it didn't break because this goes all the way down there. Then all the way down another ledge outside of these trees. But I'm just in a little cubby hole and I can't get back up."
Johnson said the key to the rescue was the team's ability to communicate with Shepard.
"Thank goodness ... he had his cell phone. Very seldom do we have this kind of luck, but he was on his cell phone called 911, which dispatch called us immediately," she said.
Johnson said the rescue was difficult in one particular area where most of her 30-person team had not been before.
"He is very lucky to be alive," she said. "When he fell. He grabbed a tree or a limb that did not break with him, he told me, and he managed to crawl himself into a crevasse in the rock and stay there until we got to him. If he would not have grabbed that he would have went 200 feet down, very easily. You look at the pictures. This gentleman, I said, 'God was watching over you, bud.' But, I mean, it was scary. Our team had to rope, up to get him. They literally had to rope up."
Johnson said that being a Powell County Search and Rescue Instant Command team member is not for the faint of heart.
"It's volunteer, no pay. Your pay is picking him up seeing him smile and say I want to be on your team. That's our reward," she said. "It takes endurance, passion, and a lot of love, because it's a hard job, it really is. When people say you're a rescue. We're a rescue team, talking in the heat the cold, the night, all day long, all night long sometimes, but it takes endurance and it just takes a good person to want to be where you're at."
The Powell County Search and Rescue team has completed more than 20 rescues already this summer, but Johnson said they continue to learn with every mission, including Shepard's, which occurred in such a remote area.
"So, a couple of us are going back to take just take that area again, walk up and see if we could have done something better we always try to retreat, go back and see if we could've done something better," Johnson said.
Johnson hopes Shepard's success story will remind everyone to go into the woods prepared with your cell phone, water, snacks a whistle and several other items.
"It can happen to you. When I tell people they say, 'I didn't know this was going to happen.' No one does. But when I tell them when you go hiking act like you're there for the night. Put in your backpack everything you would use if you were staying the night somewhere." Johnson said. "Your medicine. I don't care if you said I took it in the morning, bring it with you because it might be in the morning. Use your common sense. We're here we'll help you out, but help yourself out first."