VERNAL — A 52-year-old man was rescued from a Uintah County cliff face and flown to a Colorado hospital Saturday after he fell and struck his head.
The five-hour rescue operation began Saturday when a group camping near Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery heard a man calling for help, according to a news release from the Uintah County Sheriff's Office.
One member of that group is part of the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office search and rescue team; they group searched for the man, but echoes off the canyon made his location "impossible to pinpoint," the release says.
The group called dispatch about 1:40 p.m. to report the calls.
The Uintah County Sheriff's Office search and rescue team responded along with helicopter crews from the Utah Department of Public Safety and Classic Air Medical.
The Classic Air Medical team located the man, but could not reach him in the steep terrain. A camera-equipped drone from the search and rescue team also located the man.
Finally, the Department of Public Safety helicopter used that information to reach the man and "hoist him off the cliff," the release says.
Uintah County Sheriff's Sgt. Dustin Cheshire said the man was climbing in an "out of the way" area where "you wouldn't really expect someone to be."
"If it hadn't been for the camping group with a Wasatch County search and rescue member who heard this guy yelling and screaming," Cheshire said, "it's unlikely anyone would have found him."
The man told rescuers he had scaled about three-quarters of the cliff Saturday morning when he fell an unknown distance, struck his head and lost consciousness. The man wasn't sure how long he had been unconscious.
He also suffered injuries to his lower extremities that left him unable to use his legs, the release says.
Cheshire called the helicopter crews "instrumental" to the man's rescue. "Without the helicopters, we might still be working with ropes to get him down off the cliff," he said.
The man was flown to St. Mary's Medical Center in Grand Junction, Colorado.