The SleepWalker: Rescue Recap from the Wolfe County SAR Team


You may recall a few months back, a man slept walk (yes slept walk!) off a 60′ cliff while camping. Amazingly he survived with only minor injuries, but the fall proved extensive enough to require a proper rope rescue. Given the unusual circumstance for the accident, the story made international headlines. Wolfe County (Kentucky) Search and Rescue was one of the agencies called on this very precarious mission and this is their recap.

Here is a link to the story that CNN picked up that gives a brief overview.

It was also picked up by Good Morning America:

At approximately 1:33 a.m. on Sept 4, 2014, Wolfe County Search and Rescue received a phone call for Mutual Aid Assistance from Powell County Search & Rescue.  These two teams along with Menifee County Search & Rescue provide volunteer SAR services to the Red River Gorge located in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky.

Powell County SAR had received a phone call that a subject camping along a cliff line had fallen and could not be located by the other members of his camping party.  When the two teams arrived on scene, the subject was spotted at the bottom of a 60’ cliff line.  The campers had been hammock camping when the subject got out of his hammock and slept walked off the edge of the cliff line.

Upon arrival, we lowered a paramedic down to asses the subject’s injuries, while the top-side team members prepared the raise lower operation.  We sent a second First Responder down the cliff to help package the subject for a raise back up the cliff line.  Miraculously the individual only had minor injuries from a fall that should have been fatal.  He landed in some shrubbery just missing large boulders at the base of the cliff.

The raise operation itself was achieved using a 3:1 raise system which incorporated our trusty MPD.  As I ascended with the subject, it was an uneventful raise until we approached that last 5 feet of the cliff at which point we encountered a large rock outcropping.  We knew going down this would make for an interesting obstacle on the raise back up the cliff.  With some maneuvering of the stokes and assistance from a couple of edge attendants, we got the camper safely back to the top of the cliff that he had fallen from just hours before.

It was approximately a 5-hour operation from the time we received the initial call.  The gorge is a wilderness area with hundreds of miles of trails, cliff lines, natural arches and streams.  We are not allowed to use motorized equipment in the majority of the Red River Gorge so all the gear must be hiked in and out, adding to our response time.

Overall, the rescue went without incident and the subject was expected to make a full recovery. It’s not every day that you encounter a circumstance such as this, but extensive training in technical and rope rescue allows SAR teams like the Wolfe, Powell and Menifee Counties to work efficiently to bring the injured to safety. Great work to all the agencies involved!

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