Zachary Wilson is sore. He’s nursing a right wrist that was shattered and a broken leg. But he’s home. And he’s alive. And for that, he and his family are very thankful.
Zachary was hunting raccoon with his brother and three friends last Sunday night, when he slipped easing down a cliff and tumbled nearly 350 feet, until his coat caught on an old dead log and stopped his freefall.
“I made it down to one ledge and when I went to move to another, the dirt just gave and I fell,” Zachary recalled. “It happened so fast.”
The 15-year-old Southwestern High freshman said he blacked out as the fall began, and came to when the log stopped his fall, 150 feet above Lake Cumberland.
“My brother was yelling, asking if I was OK,” Zachary said. ”I knew my wrist was broken. And I tried to move my leg and it was flopping. I knew I was hurt pretty bad.”
Zachary’s fall happened at 10:30 Sunday night. About a half-hour afterwards, one of the friends he was hunting with, Jeremy Garland, made his way down to the ledge where Zachary’s fall ended.
“He made me a fire and got me something to drink,” Zachary said.
A few hours later, rescuers made their way down the cliff. It took 350 feet of rope to get to Zachary, and another 150 feet to lower him to the lake below, where a boat could transport him to Burnside Island.
The Tateville Fire Department was the first to respond to the scene. By the end of the night, units from the Burnside Fire Department, the Bronston Fire Department, the Pulaski Rescue Squad, Kentucky State Police, the water patrol and Somerset EMS had a hand in the rescue.
“All the guys and girls involved in the rescue did a tremendous job,” Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson said. “It was a team effort.”
The procedure was called a high-angle rescue, according to Robinson.
“It was very treacherous to get over the ledge and through the trees and the thickets 300 feet to get to him,” Robinson said. “And it was raining which made it slick, so it was even more dangerous. A lot of hard work went into the rescue.”
It was a rough evening for the young hunter. But he hung in there with a lot of grit and determination.
“It was a long night,” Zachary said. “I was in a lot of pain.
“I’m really thankful for everyone who helped me that night,” he added. “I want to thank every one of them for getting to me and helping me out.”
Robinson said last week “ it’s 1,000 wonders (Zachary) wasn’t hurt any worse.”
“You don’t see too many people survive a fall like that,” Robinson said.
Zachary realizes he’s very fortunate.
“The Good Lord was looking out for me and that kept me from being hurt more,” he said.
Zachary had two surgeries — one to put three pins in his right wrist and another to put a rod in his leg. Amazingly enough, he was discharged from the University of Tennessee Medical Center on Thursday.
“I thought I’d be in the hospital a whole lot longer,” Zachary said.
Zachary isn’t very mobile right now, and he and his family will be checking into the Southwestern home-bound program next week.
“I’m still really sore,” Zachary said. ”But it could have been a whole lot worse.”