JEROME • Nine BASE jumpers climbed down the north side of the Snake River Canyon to an overhang and lunged off the edge Sunday night. Eight landed safely.Veteran BASE jumper Roger Nelson of Twin Falls tumbled two thirds of the way down the canyon, broke both legs and survived. Twenty-two emergency responders from four agencies climbed more than 150 feet up the cliff to rescue Nelson as high winds and rain complicated their efforts. Paramedics got to the injured man at around 9:30 p.m. Three hours later, Nelson was air lifted from the canyon floor to St. Luke’s Magic Valley Regional Medical Center.
The comprehensive rescue was one of the larger collaborations in the history of Snake River Canyon BASE jumping mishaps, said Jerome County Sheriff Doug McFall.
“I don’t think we’ve had all those agencies working on an issue in all the years I’ve worked in this area,” McFall said.
The location of the stranded jumper was rare, said Lieutenant Dan Kennedy with the Jerome County Sheriff’s Department. Nearly all injuries and deaths happen on the south end of the canyon because 90 percent of jumps are off the Perrine Bridge, he said.
“He couldn’t have picked a worse spot to land as far as access. The amount of manpower that was going to be needed and the amount of technical expertise that was going to be needed to get him off safely — the resources that rescued him — don’t exist solely in the Jerome County Sheriff’s Department,” Kennedy said.
Air St. Luke’s, Twin Falls Fire Department and Jerome County Search and Rescue joined the sheriff’s department to save the man’s life. Past collaborations between agencies haven’t gone so smoothly, McFall said.
“A lot of people get their feelings hurt, get their toes stepped on, too many people want to be in charge and that didn’t happen tonight,” hes said.
It was the first time Twin Falls Fire Captain Eric Schmitz climbed the north side of the canyon for a rescue. After reaching Nelson, Schmitz took the lead and helped assemble the stokes, the giant gurney that brought the BASE jumper to safety.
In a debriefing after the rescue, McFall assembled all of the rescuers and discussed what they could’ve done better.
“One thing we could all work on: It would benefit all of us if we could at times train together or at least have drills from all these entities,” McFall said. “We’ve got four high angle rescue teams in the valley, and we need to all be playing on the same sheet of music so things run smooth.”