A harrowing mountain rescue took place Thursday when an absconded juvenile from the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy fell down a mountainside and clung for his life on a cliff in Grays Knob.
Kentucky State Police troopers Jared Boggs and Jimmy Halcomb responded, who then requested the Harlan County Rescue Squad (HCRS) for a mountain rescue.
“At 10:11 a.m. Thursday, I received a dispatch from KSP of a young man hanging on a cliff near Grays Knob, behind the Cumberland River Comprehensive Care Center across the river near the railroad tracks,” said HCRS Capt. Chris Allen. “After surveying the scene I called Lt. James Billings, with the Harlan City Fire Department, to bring one of their long ladders to the scene. By using the ladder we didn’t have to hike several miles through the mountains and rappel down the mountain to reach the young man. I also approached a CSX official, who was pulling up to see what was going on, and asked him to notify their office to stop any trains in the area until the situation could be resolved.”
Allen said the juvenile was hanging onto “a couple of little bushes” on a cliff approximately 40 feet above the railroad tracks. He said the juvenile was “alert and appeared to have an injury to his right knee or possibly a broken leg.”
“The young man told me a rock rolled down and hit him after he fell. He’d been hanging there for several hours,” said Allen. “We got a Swiss Seat Harness on him, hooked him on a rope and worked him down a ladder. We got him packaged and sent out with Harlan EMS. We did have to go back up and bring down another person, who was uninjured and only assisting at the scene.”
Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy Interim Director Josh Coldiron said it was apparent a cadet was missing after a head count was conducted after an exercise class was finished and the cadets were taken outside for a flag raising event. He said it was just “a matter of minutes” before staff realized the young man was missing.
“We followed policies and procedures and notified the Kentucky State Police,” said Coldiron. “We also utilized our camera system and saw the cadet exiting the back door of the gym and going up into the mountains. We had staff already in the mountains doing a search when the cadet was found.”
Coldiron said the safety and security of the cadets is first and foremost in the academy’s mind. He added the academy is a voluntary program and not a juvenile detention center.
“The cadets, if they don’t like it here, are free to leave,” said Coldiron. “We hope they don’t do it in this manner. His mother was notified and met us at the hospital. The cadet will not be returning for this class. He was medically discharged, which leaves him an option of later returning.”
The juvenile cadet was transported to the Harlan ARH Hospital by Harlan EMS. Also assisting at the scene were Harlan County Emergency Management David McGill, LifeCare Ambulance Service, Harlan City Fire Department and officials from the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org