Rick Thompson doesn’t remember the fall, but remembers the sound of an approaching helicopter.
"I'm told I fell, you know, 20 to 30 feet from the rocks to the ground,” said Thompson. “I started tumbling head over heels, down a very steep slope, and I tumbled about 100 yards before I stopped.”
Thompson, an avid hiker, was rescued near the summit of Granite Mountain back in September by a search and rescue chopper team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island after he fell from a steep incline, as he hiked with a friend, on their way down the mountain.
An earlier King County helicopter rescue attempt failed because of strong winds.
"Kind of boulder hopping,” said Thompson, who credits his backpack for cushioning some of the fall that left him with deep cuts to his head. "I had five cracked ribs and three cracked vertebrae up in my neck.”
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Thompson said his friend, who had walked ahead on the trail, didn’t immediately realize he had fallen down the steep mountainside near Snoqualmie Pass.
She, along with several strangers, rushed to help after hearing a hiker had fallen. Thompson’s friend then realized he was the one in need of help.
Nearby, he said, was a Harborview Medical Center emergency room doctor, who happened to be trail running. Thompson said a trained search and rescue hiker also helped.
"One of the other guys had an emergency splint in his pack, one of these foldable splints, so the ER [doctor] took that splint and formed a brace around my neck,” said Thompson.
Rick, who said he regained consciousness after the fall, described people working to keep him warm during the wait for the rescue helicopter.
He said they saved his life.
"Those four people stayed with me for, you know, four and a half, five hours,” said Thompson.
Thompson’s sister, Sharon Johnson, said she got the news in a voicemail from the woman her brother had gone on the hike with as they were still on the mountain waiting for a rescue helicopter.
"I guess I was pale,” said Johnson. “I was shaking.”
Sharon remembers the agonizing wait for updates as rescuers worked to get Thompson from the mountainside to the trauma center.
She gathered up family members and went to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where Thompson was airlifted.
"Everyone that talked to us, the doctors and nurses in the hospital, like, ‘he's a walking miracle,’” said Johnson.
Thompson told KIRO 7 he has recovered much faster than doctors expected, though some discomfort remains.
The fall, he said, has made him appreciate his health more. Thompson, tearing up, said he’s grateful for the rescuers who saved his life.
He’s hopeful for a full recovery.
“I'm damn lucky to be walking,” said Thompson.
A hiker who was injured after he fell from Granite Mountain in September is telling his story of survival.
On Sept. 23, King County Search and Rescue responded to a report of a fallen hiker on Granite Mountain.
When crews arrived, they had to rescue the climber with rope, and then he was flown out by helicopter to the hospital.
The hiker had head lacerations and potential spinal cord injuries after falling more than 20 feet.
Cox Media Group