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Nicole Johnson

'We're the lucky ones,' mother of hiker injured in 30-foot fall says

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Nov 15th, 2013 @ 6:55pm


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MURRAY — It was the perfect view: a gorgeous vista at the top of the falls in Bell Canyon. It had to be captured in a picture.

Jay Hutchinson, 20, went to snap that photo Tuesday, stepped on to what appeared to be a dry rock in the middle of the low-flowing falls, and slipped.

He fell 5 feet on to a ledge, then 30 feet, face-down into knee-deep water below, Hutchinson's family said Friday. They spoke out for the first time since the accident, saying it's a story that could happen to anyone.

"We're the lucky ones that got to keep our son here," said Hutchinson's mother, April Sherman.

Miraculously, Sherman said, her son survived the ordeal, thanks largely to his friend, Nicole Johnson, who rushed down to the bottom of the falls and pulled Hutchinson's head out of the water.

"He wouldn't have survived if she weren't there with him," Sherman said. "She saved his life."

A passerby helped to pull Hutchinson fully out of the water and render aid until emergency crews arrived, Sherman said.


"We're the lucky ones that got to keep our son here."

Hutchinson remained in the Intensive Care Unit Friday at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, but his parents said he was making significant improvement and doctors were optimistic about a full recovery.

That said, Sherman said Hutchinson had already undergone six hours of reconstructive surgery on his elbow; a separation in his hip had been repaired; his jaw was broken in multiple places and was wired shut; frontal pelvic bones remained broken; his ribs were cracked, and doctors were evaluating whether his wrist required surgery.

Doctors told the family Hutchinson likely faced 8 to 12 months of recovery time, according to Sherman.

"Hopefully this will make Jay a stronger person," she said, as her eyes welled up with tears.

Hutchinson didn't do anything that another hiker wouldn't have done, seeing a beautiful view and a dry perch to take a picture, his parents said.

"You don't get the full grasp of what he's doing until it's too late," Rick Hutchinson, Jay Hutchinson's father.

The fall drew the third rescue response to the same spot in the past two months, Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said.

It is also one of several recent highly-publicized mishaps and rescues, including a Monday night 30-foot fall in Little Cottonwood Canyon and a deadly fall Wednesday at Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon.

Collectively, the cases are prompting first responders to urge caution to all heading into the outdoors.

Hoyal recommended charting out hikes and knowing routes before going, and watching every step along the way.

"There are rocks, there are steep cliffs, there are all kinds hazards people could fall off of that they need to be aware," Hoyal said. "When you're up there hiking and getting into those steeper areas, know what your limitations are. Don't get yourself into a situation that's beyond your skill set."

Hutchinson was moved out of the ICU Friday night.

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