- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - As picturesque as Lemolo Falls can be, Laura Nolasco of Medford can be forgiven if she never wants to see it again.

It was there during a camping trip along the Umpqua River on Saturday when she almost lost her son, Isaiah Garcia, after he tumbled nearly off a cliff by the waterfall, all just one day before his 17th birthday.

“Most people don’t survive a hundred-foot fall,” Nolasco said.

Garcia, a former North Medford High School football player and senior at Central Medford High, is currently hospitalized at Saint Charles Medical Center in Bend, following his life-threatening fall about 80 miles east of Roseburg which broke his clavicle, wrist and rib, and made multiple deep cuts.

“All that can heal,” Noloasco said.

The camping outing had begun a weekend birthday outing for Garcia. While hiking near Lemolo Falls just after 3 p.m., Garcia sought to get a better view of the waterfalls when he stepped on ground above a tree root hole, which collapsed.

“If he would have gone 20 more feet he would have ended up in the river,” Nolasco’s brother Paul Villa said.

After the fall, Villa carefully hiked down to where Garcia was and stood by Garcia’s side, while Nolasco hiked the half mile to find phone reception, call for help and bring her son water. Villa kept his nephew conscious during the nearly six-hour rescue.

Villa remembered that Garcia wanted to nod off in part because of the pain during the rescue that lasted from 3:30 to after 9 p.m. Saturday, but Villa kept asking him questions.

The ordeal was emotionally overwhelming for Villa, who didn’t know the extent of Garcia’s injuries. He said he “broke down,” crying by his nephew’s side. He calmed himself asking Garcia to wiggle his toes, and was relieved he showed no signs of concussion or spinal damage.

“Other than that, I was freaked out the entire time,” Villa said. “I would consider it the worst day of my entire life.”

A Black Hawk helicopter had been called in by the National Guard, but it wouldn’t have arrived until close to 11, well after nightfall. At about 5 p.m. mountain rescuers arrived, and a steep hill rescue team pulled Garcia up the cliff.

Nolasco flew in with Garcia in the helicopter to Bend. She hasn’t left his side, she said.

It had originally been planned to transfer Garcia to Rogue Regional Medical Center, but doctors made the decision to keep him at Saint Charles in Bend because the hospital is more focused as a trauma center, Nolasco said.

Doctors are checking for brain damage and internal bleeding. Two metal pins have been set in Garcia’s wrist, which will take six months to heal, his broken clavicle will heal on its own and a six-inch laceration on his leg will heal in a couple weeks. He’ll be in the hospital at least a week.

Although she described the ordeal as “a parent’s worst nightmare,” she’s also grateful.

“I’m glad I’m not planning a funeral,” Nolasco said.


Information from: Mail Tribune, https://www.mailtribune.com/

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