On August 10, 2010 a 21-year-old man fell into Auger Falls. If you’ve ever seen Auger Falls you know how dangerous it can be, and that falling in would be terrible. I just wanted to write about the day, it was one of the most emotional days I’ve ever experienced, and now I’ve had some time to reflect.
I was leading the Speculator Scavenger Hunt session for Triple A up at Camp Fowler, I had 12 female campers and a great volunteer. The morning was a lot of fun, we were just hanging out, visiting different parts of Speculator and completing tasks at various locations, it was just a relaxing fun-filled day. Throughout the morning the girls kept discussing Auger Falls, and when we should go because it was on our list of places to visit. We first decided we would go sometime in the morning, however later on we decided we would go there in the afternoon and have some lunch.
We arrived at the falls around 2 pm and we were just about to eat lunch when one of my campers said, “I think that guy just fell in.” I didn’t really know what she meant, was she kidding, was she just seeing things? I remember thinking to myself she didn’t really just say that did she? But I needed to check, so I turned around along with some of my campers, and we saw this young guy at the bottom of the steepest falls sitting on the edge of a rock. His head was bloody and he was holding his arm. The next thing I saw was his friend getting ready to jump in after him (it was his cousin). My volunteer ran to the young man (as quickly as she could on the wet rocks) and stopped him from trying to jump in. Their dog was barking too, nonstop. Meanwhile, my campers (all unharmed) were getting exceedingly more nervous about the situation, as was I. We were the only group there, and I had no idea if we could even help him, or if I could even handle something like this.
Then I remembered the gaping hole in cell phone service between Northville and Speculator, and I knew I would have to leave Auger Falls to call for help. While my mind was racing my volunteer was trying to keep the two young men calm, and was doing a great job. I started to look for ways to maybe pull him out, if I could just find a sturdy piece of wood, or maybe we could make a rescue rope out of bags, belts, and shoelaces. Then I told myself, “self, that’s idiotic, stop wasting time, you can’t get him out.” So I knew I had to run back to the van and book it towards Speculator to either call or find somebody who could help. I told my campers to stay away from the falls, help our volunteer with whatever she needed, and try to stay calm. I began running the trail towards the van. On my way I saw a couple of groups of hikers, not realizing what they were headed towards. I didn’t stop to tell them anything, for one I didn’t have time, and secondly I just didn’t really want to get anyone else involved. I knew about the lack of cell phone service, maybe they didn’t, it was my responsibility to get help.
I got to the van and booked it out of that parking lot. I was probably driving a little too fast for the van, but I thought the situation warranted some speeding. While I was in the van I was just praying, I didn’t know what else to do. I knew that young man was down in the cold water, he was bleeding from his head, and my campers were there watching it. What a terrible feeling, I felt absolutely helpless. I kept saying to myself, “who knows if he has slipped off the rock now and slipped away from us completely?” I know that’s awful to say, but I hated the thought of my campers experiencing something like that, how awful, and what about the boy’s family there, experiencing all of that? I kept trying to call the emergency number but the service was so shotty. Finally I heard it ring and then someone answered but they couldn’t hear me. Go friggen figure, damn cell phones. So I just drove right to the ambulance corps building in Speculator and ran in. I told them that a young man fell into Auger Falls, about 20 minutes ago. That he was bleeding from his head and was holding his arm. Also that he was barely sitting on a rock at the bottom of the falls. They looked shocked but sprang into action. I followed an ambulance back down to the falls, and on the way heard other sirens heading towards the scene.
When I got back to the parking lot it was full of emergency vehicles, cars of rescue personnel, and police cars. I never felt so happy to see cops and ambulances. I ran back towards the entrance to the trail. To my surprise I saw my campers lined along the trail, leading the rescue personnel to the young man and giving them information along the way. I was extremely proud of them. We got out of the way as more trained people showed up to help. The boy’s mother was down on a rock across from her son, keeping him calm, talking to him. 3 search and rescue men jumped into action, creating a rope system from the shore, to the top of the falls, and down to the boy.
It was at this point when I heard some other onlookers talking. The were taking video, which I could not believe… There they were, this boy fighting for his life and they had the audacity to take a video and make comments! I’m laid back and very non-confrontational but this is one time where I just wanted to beat the crap out of these people. I didn’t, but I couldn’t believe them. I heard one of them say, “if he were my kid I’d smack him around for being so stupid.” And that is not an exaggeration, I heard that. It pissed me off so much; yea the boy made a mistake but there are other things to worry about now. What an ass! I hate that guy.
So it was now about 4:30, the rescue team was making progress, and it looked like the young man was going to at least be extracted and brought to a hospital. We had done all we could, and I also realized that I was supposed to be back at camp at 4, and nobody knew where we were (sorry Lindsay). I forgot to call camp in all the commotion. So we headed back.
Th van ride was very somber, most of the girls were okay but seeing someone’s life hang in the balance was something you don’t get over very quickly. We had a prayer and all gave thanks for our blessings. I can’t really say how any of the girls felt, maybe how I did, maybe not, but we all decided it was extremely lucky that we decided to go to Auger Falls when we did. If we went in the morning who knows what would’ve happened to the young man.
That night at dinner I felt so weird. Like I was at camp physically, but I was just not really there. Like everything else was a blur. I saw these happy young campers and all I could think was it could have been anyone of them who fell in. I hated that feeling, like all of them were so vulnerable.
Luckily a life was spared that afternoon. I received more information in the following days. They airlifted the young man to Albany and a few days later he was released. I didn’t think it was possible that he would be okay… but he was. And because he was okay, I was okay.