Girl survives 40-foot fall off cliff at Wisconsin state park

SHERWOOD, Wis. — A 14-year-old girl on a mountain bike fell more than 40 feet off a cliff Wednesday at High Cliff State Park in Wisconsin.

She survived the fall and was conscious and talking when rescuers arrived shortly after 1 p.m.

“She went straight down at least 40 feet,” said Capt. Mark Gackenheimer of the town of Harrison Fire Rescue Department. “For her to even be talking to us is pretty miraculous.”

The girl, who is hospitalized in good condition at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, was biking along the Red Bird Trail, about one-eighth of a mile south of the park’s observation tower.

“There are some (trail) splinters that go out from the main trail,” Gackenheimer said. “She was on a splinter that goes right to the cliff’s edge. Because of all the rain we’ve had, it was pretty soft.”

The ground gave way and the girl, who was wearing a helmet, plunged off the cliff, landing on rocks below.

Gackenheimer said he believes the girl initially lost consciousness but was alert when rescue crews arrived. Her mother, who had been biking with her, had made her way down the rocks and was at the girl’s side.

The Harrison rescue crew, assisted by Calumet County Sheriff’s deputies and a park ranger, used a back board, rope and basket to bring the girl back to the top of the cliff.

“We were able to rig it so we could use a low-angle rescue unit, which allows us to ascend up a slope,” Gackenheimer said. “The team walked her back up the slope with the back board and basket. She was immobilized.”

Getting her up the cliff was no easy task and took the better part of an hour.

“It was pretty rough terrain down there,” Gackenheimer said.

Once to the top of the cliff, the Harrison rescue team transported her to a waiting ThedaStar helicopter, which transported her to the Neenah hospital.

Megan Mulholland, spokeswoman for ThedaCare, said the girl remained hospitalized but was in good condition as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. She said she did not have details on her injuries. The girl's name was not released.

Gackenheimer said the girl is lucky to be alive.

“We’ve had several people (through the years) fall at High Cliff, and some have been fatal at lesser heights,” he said. “She’s a very lucky girl.”

Follow Ed Berthiaume on Twitter: @edberthiaume

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