Firefighters pluck man from cliff after bad fall

A wife and her cellphone rule can take the credit for promptly alerting authorities after her husband fell 100 feet down a steep cliff

A wife and her cellphone rule can take the credit for promptly alerting authorities after her husband fell 100 feet down a steep cliff on their Malahat property Thursday afternoon.

Malahat Volunteer Fire Department Chief Rob Patterson said his crew was notified about 2 p.m. of the incident at the residential property.

After assessing the scene, Patterson had Shawnigan Lake Fire Department’s high angle rescue crew paged out to help, followed up a short time later by Mill Bay Fire Department’s volunteers as well.

“So we had two other departments come to help get this gentleman back to the top of the cliff,” Patterson said.

“His wife had the rule that if you’re going to go work in the yard, you must carry your cell phone, just in case,” he added. “And sure enough this happened and the phone stayed with him the whole ride down.”

The man had been doing some land clearing on the property, located just north of the Malahat and on the east side of the road, when he got tangled up with his dog.

“His dog kind of got around him and jumped up and kind of pushed him off balance and he did the big 100-foot drop,” Patterson explained.

The 63-year-old man came to rest on a little bit of a flat spot but found himself stuck between a tree and the face of a rock.

“He was wedged in there pretty good,” Patterson said.

Despite the steep drop, the man was able to use his mobile phone to call his wife and she in turn called 9-1-1 and a neighbour to help direct rescuers to the site where her husband waited.

“Nobody could see him until they got down over the edge,” Patterson said. “It took some time to get rigged up and safely respond over the bank.”

Alert but getting cold, the patient had no immediately life-threatening injuries.

“He may have a broken ankle and a broken shoulder, is what I’m hearing second hand, I don’t know for sure, but he was alert conscious and communicative when he passed by me,” Patterson said.

The man spent about four hours over the bank, lying there wedged, unable to move and in shock, Patterson explained.

“I would venture to guess a mild stage of hypothermia might have been setting in because it was cooling off down where he was quite rapidly in the afternoon with no direct sunlight.”

All told, a crew of nearly 30 worked to rescue the man.

Later, an ambulance supervisor briefed Patterson on the patient’s condition.

“He was improving dramatically and doing much better so he was going for some [tests],” Patterson said.

Initially he was going to be airlifted out but because of the time it took to extract the man, he was instead stabilized and taken via ambulance to hospital in Victoria. Patterson said it could have been much worse.

“It was quite a cliff,” he said. “He’s a very lucky guy. He should go buy a lottery ticket.”