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BYU student tells of moments leading up to 40-foot canyon fall

By Sandra Yi | Posted - Oct 26th, 2013 @ 10:43pm


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PROVO — A BYU student who fell 40 feet while rock climbing in American Fork Canyon two weeks ago shared his story Saturday.

Daniel Wilkes, 23, is still recovering after the Oct. 12 fall in the Little Mill Campground area. Both he and the paramedic who treated him agree luck was on his side that day.

Wilkes said it was the pleasant weather that drew him, his brother and a friend to American Fork Canyon that day. They decided to rock climb, and Wilkes took the lead on a wall. He admits now he made a risky move trying to get to the top.

"I put my carabineer in the top, and put in my rope, and took one more extra step to stay steady," he said.

But Wilkes had missed a clip; and when he slipped, he fell 40 feet.

"I twisted around and fell on my arm," he said. "I hit on my right side, and I remember hitting my head first."

Other climbers called for help while Wilkes' brother and friend put towels under his neck for support. He was shaking from shock, they told him.

Paramedic Justin Reimers and other first responders hiked three-quarters of a mile in dense and rocky terrain to get to Wilkes.

"I think it was our second call that day," Reimers said. "You always expect the worst."

Saturday afternoon, the two reunited for the first time since Wilkes got out of the hospital last week.

"I don't remember the ground, but I remember hitting it, like, a thump," Wilkes told Reimers.

"Yeah, it was probably a good thump," Reimers replied.

That accident changed life as Wilkes knew it. A pre-med student at BYU, he can't do much on his own right now.

"I can't feed myself. I can't do anything," he said. "I can't brush my teeth. I can't comb my hair. I can't drink, can't even put on a shirt."

The experience has been humbling for the young Texan, who said paramedics like Reimers helped reassure him that fateful day.

"The way they were all calm and helped me, I knew everything was going to be all right," Wilkes said.

And he isn't afraid to admit, he may have gone a bit too far that day.

"If I would have accepted the defeat and let the wall beat me, it wouldn't have happened," Wilkes said.

He said he's also lucky because that was the one time, he rock climbed without a helmet on.

Wilkes injuries included a broken elbow, a broken wrist and a fractured pelvis. His leg was also impaled by a good-sized rock.

He's expected to get have full mobility in about three months.

Wilkes said he'll rock climb in a gym, but it might be a while before he'll do it outside again.

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