Firefighters saved a man who fell halfway down a 120-foot cliff off West Beach Road Sunday afternoon.
Mike Brown, deputy chief of North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, said the 19-year-old man was at an observation point on private property north of Fort Nugent Road when he lost his footing and tumbled down the bank towards the water.
The first unit on the scene found the man clinging to the rock face just above a sheer drop. Brown said the man was unable to move and was in a very dangerous position.
The firefighters lowered a rope to the man in order to secure him. Brown said they called in a mutual aid request to Navy Region Northwest Fire and Emergency Services Battalion 3 for additional personnel trained in technical rope rescue.
Brown explained that a rescuer was lowered down to the man. Then the two of them were slowly pulled back up utilizing a complex system of pulleys. It took about an hour of pulling to bring the men to the top; the whole operation took 20 people about two hours to complete.
The man made it to the top no worse for wear.
“He just dusted himself off,” Brown said. “He was very lucky. It could have been a much worse.”
Brown said the two organizations worked very well together and everyone was happy with the outcome.
Brown said his department responds to reports of people falling off cliffs more than a dozen times a year, plus the occasional dog rescue. He said people sometimes walk too close to the edge of cliffs and get into trouble when the soil gives away.
Given the number of unstable cliffs and slippery rock formations on the island, he urges people to play it safe.
“People exploring these areas should be very careful,” he said. “These cliff edges can give way suddenly and these falls can be catastrophic to people just out for a nice hike.”