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California and the West

Woman Survives 600-Foot Tumble Down Mountain

July 28, 1998|DIANA MARCUM and PATRICK KERKSTRA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PALM SPRINGS — A tourist visiting San Jacinto Mountain fell from an observation deck atop the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Monday afternoon, tumbling down the rough, steep slope more then 600 feet before skidding to a stop.

Incredibly, medical workers on the scene said the woman suffered only a fractured arm and minor head and back injuries.

The woman, who was not identified, was put in a gurney about five hours later as rescue workers attempted to carry her to safety. They planned to either lift her out with a helicopter or use a pulley system to haul her up the side of the peak.

The second option, which officials were leaning toward late Monday, would take six to eight hours and involve more than 50 people, said Ken Piner, chief medical officer of the Palm Springs Mounted Police.

"It's going to take a lot of teamwork, a lot of pull and a lot of time to get her off this mountain," Piner said.

The tourist, who authorities said was a Bolivian woman of Korean extraction, had been visiting the tramway, which whisks passengers 6,000 feet to a mountaintop observation station.

Tramway employees said the woman had been observing the sights from Grunt's Overview, which overlooks the steepest drop-off, when she climbed past the fences and signs warning tourists to stay away from the ledge.

A tramway employee asked her to get back inside the fence. She obeyed, but a few minutes later, about 4 p.m., she went outside the fence again. This time, she fell down the side of the peak about 200 feet, said tramway employee Tim Jones.

Jones said he rushed to the overlook, from which he was able to talk to the woman for about 15 minutes as rescue workers made their way to the scene. Suddenly, he said, the woman shifted and tumbled 400 feet farther down the treacherous slope. The woman, who was briefly knocked unconscious, apparently fell a third time after regaining consciousness.

Eventually, rescue units made their way down to the woman's position. A young Korean-speaking tourist translated for authorities via radio.

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