Skip to main content

Originally published Monday, May 21, 2012 at 4:36 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Boy rescued above waterfall not scared - at first

A 13-year-old boy rescued at the top of a 270-foot waterfall in Washington state says he wasn't initially scared when he fell in the water.

Associated Press

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >



A 13-year-old boy rescued at the top of a 270-foot waterfall in Washington state says he wasn't initially scared when he fell in the water.

William Hickman says he just focused on keeping his feet pointed downstream, like a character in a book he once read. That advice may have helped save his life. The current pushed him toward a narrow rock shelf just above Wallace Falls, northeast of Seattle, on Saturday, and he was able to pull himself out to wait for rescuers.

He said that once he finished coughing up the water he had swallowed, he realized how precarious his situation was. But he figured as long as he stayed put, someone would be able to get to him. Officials released a video Monday of the boy's dramatic, middle-of-the-night rescue.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Officials released a video Monday of a Washington state teen's dramatic, middle-of-the-night rescue just above a 270-foot waterfall.

The video, shot by a volunteer rescuer, shows the 13-year-old Burien boy huddled on a narrow, sloping rock shelf with his back to the water just above Wallace Falls, a popular hiking attraction northeast of Seattle. One roped-up rescuer cautiously makes his way to the boy using an aluminum ladder as a foothold, and then guides him up a rock wall to safety.

The boy, whose name was not immediately released, had been wading in the Wallace River when he lost his footing late Saturday afternoon. The whitewater swept him over one 10-foot waterfall, but he pulled himself onto a narrow rock shelf just before the main falls. He stayed there, cold and wet, for the next eight and a half hours until rescuers were able to reach him.

The boy and his rescuers were scheduled to speak at a news conference Monday afternoon.

"He was on that one rock for all those hours," Snohomish County Sheriff's Lt. Suzy Johnson said Sunday afternoon. "He's a pretty lucky kid."

Rescuers first tried to reach him by helicopter, but the rock overhanging the shelf prevented them from dropping straight down. Instead, a helicopter crew dropped two rescuers 200 yards below him.

The rescuers climbed above the rock overhang, and then worked as a team - one rappelling down, the other belaying. Their goal was just to reach him and place him in a harness that would keep him safe until others arrived, said Deputy Bill Quistorf, chief pilot for the sheriff's air support unit.

As one rappelled down, he tried to swing under the overhang. His rope, rubbing against the rock, snapped, and he plunged into the whitewater. Only his secondary rope saved him from going over the big falls, and he made it to shore with minor injuries.

Other rescuers hiked up the trail, and arrived to find the boy standing on the rock, wet and hypothermic. They threw him dry clothes and food and set up a rigging that would allow them to rescue him, including a 24-foot aluminum ladder placed horizontally across the river and secured with several ropes.

The video shows the ladder secured to the shore on one end and suspended in the water under the rock ledge by two ropes on the other end. The rescuer who reached the boy uses it as a foothold, helps him rope up and then helps him climb up the rock wall.

The 10 rescuers camped with him overnight, and a sheriff's office helicopter flew them down off the mountain at 6 a.m. There was no place for the helicopter to land to pick them up, so the boy and the rescuers rode on a platform hanging from a cable 80 feet below the helicopter.

The video is available at


Johnson can be reached at

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon