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Hiker rescued, expected to recover

Man fell from Cochran Falls

POSTED: October 3, 2012 4:00 a.m.

The Cumming man that fell about 25 feet Friday while hiking at Cochran Falls in northwestern Dawson County is expected to make a full recovery.

Dawson County Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford said the 22-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was in stable condition Monday afternoon at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He could be released within a few days.

"This is just another example of the value of training," Swafford said.

The second highest waterfall in Georgia, Cochran Falls, a 600-foot cascade, is a popular but rugged hiking trail in the Chattahoochee National Forest, about 4 miles from Amicalola Falls State Park.

The man had been hiking with four friends when he fell.

"We were just out there a month ago and trained in the area," Swafford said. "It was that training - along with teamwork from Amicalola Falls State Park staff, Big Canoe Public Safety, Lumpkin County Fire and EMS, Dawson County 911 Communications, DNR Aviation and Airlife Georgia - that we all worked in harmony for a great operation."

The dramatic rescue began about 2:30 p.m. on Friday, with emergency personnel driving nearly two miles down a narrow mountain road and then hiking another three miles with their gear into the national forest. They then repelled down the side of an embankment to reach the man.

According to Dawson County Emergency Services Battalion Chief Milton Keller, the hiker suffered several broken bones in his lower extremities in the fall, but was conscious and alert when rescuers arrived.

They stabilized the man and treated his injuries on the thin, mountain ledge before he was secured on a basket stretcher, lifted into the air and flown by DNR Aviation at about 40 mph over treetops to emergency workers waiting in a nearby field.

The rescue was captured on video and sparked national media attention for the emergency crew's actions.

While the rescue was dramatic, Swafford said it was "no different than what we do every day."

According to Swafford, Friday's incident is the fourth fall from atop the falls since 1990.

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