Woman in critical condition after falling about 40 feet in Waterfall Canyon

Posted at 2:54 PM, Apr 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-26 23:35:27-04

OGDEN, Utah – A woman suffered critical injuries and was flown to a hospital in Ogden after she attempted to climb near a waterfall but slipped and fell an estimated 40 feet.

Weber County Sheriff’s Office personnel on the scene tell FOX 13 News the 19-year-old woman was with two coworkers and she decided to climb the waterfall in the canyon. Officials initially reported the woman fell about 50 feet but later said they estimated the fall to be about 40 feet.

"My understanding is while she was climbing, a rock came loose from under her foot, she lost her footing, and that's where she fell," said Lt. Brandon Toll, with the Weber County Sheriff's Office.
"Those conditions are very dangerous in that area because of the loose rock, the slippery conditions, it's just not a real good idea to climb around those."

The woman has been identified by authorities as Sophie Hillmeyer, who is visiting Utah from Minnesota as part of volunteer work with AmeriCorps.

Authorities said it is not uncommon for people to try to climb near the waterfall, an ascent that can be made without climbing gear, but they said it is dangerous to do so, especially in times when rain has made the area slippery. There are signs in the canyon warning people not to try to climb near the waterfall.

"I come up here a lot, and you see kids all the time climb the rocks, even little kids and their parents are there," said hiker Melissa Castro. "And it says clearly not to climb the rocks, and I wouldn't be surprised and if someone went up there, especially after this weather we've been having, and somebody just slipping and falling."

The helicopter dispatched to the woman could not reach the immediate location where she fell, so search and rescue crews moved her by gurney about 150 yards, and from there she was flown to McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden. The total rescue operation took about 90 minutes.

"The helicopter was right in front of us, and it was crazy because the wind was just blowing us all away, we saw wood chips like just hitting me in the face," said witness April Rubio. "We were all trying to record it, and it was just an amazing experience because they were like helping people out, how they carried her and got her up."

Hillmeyer is listed as being in critical condition. The woman injured her head and arm and was conscious but not alert when she was transported, according to the sheriff’s office.

Officials said Hillmeyer volunteers with AmeriCorps and was hiking with two coworkers, but was not on an AmeriCorps trip when the fall occurred.