HARLAN, Ky. (AP) — A teenager is recovering after falling down a mountainside in eastern Kentucky and landing on a cliff where officials say he clung to some bushes for hours until being rescued.
Harlan County Rescue Squad Capt. Chris Allen told the Harlan Daily Enterprise (http://bit.ly/WHdfEr ) that the juvenile appeared to have an injured knee or broken leg, but was awake and alert when officials arrived Thursday to get him down.
The teen, whose name was not released, had gone missing earlier in the morning from the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy, which is a voluntary 22-week program for at-risk teens.
Academy Interim Director Josh Coldiron said staff realized the youth was missing a few minutes after he left and immediately called police and began searching for him.
Allen said the juvenile was found hanging onto "a couple of little bushes" about 40 feet above railroad tracks, and crews had to determine the best way to get him down.
"After surveying the scene I called Lt. James Billings, with the Harlan City Fire Department, to bring one of their long ladders to the scene," Allen said. "By using the ladder we didn't have to hike several miles through the mountains and rappel down the mountain to reach the young man."
The youth gave rescuers some details about his harrowing ordeal.
"The young man told me a rock rolled down and hit him after he fell. He'd been hanging there for several hours," said Allen. "We got a Swiss Seat Harness on him, hooked him on a rope and worked him down a ladder. We got him packaged and sent out with Harlan EMS."
After being rescued, the teen was treated at a local hospital.
Coldiron said the academy takes safety seriously.
"We followed policies and procedures and notified the Kentucky State Police," said Coldiron. "We also utilized our camera system and saw the cadet exiting the back door of the gym and going up into the mountains. We had staff already in the mountains doing a search when the cadet was found."
He also noted that participants aren't forced to stay at the facility.
"The cadets, if they don't like it here, are free to leave," said Coldiron. "We hope they don't do it in this manner. His mother was notified and met us at the hospital. The cadet will not be returning for this class. He was medically discharged, which leaves him an option of later returning."
Information from: Harlan Daily Enterprise, http://www.harlandaily.com