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Rescuers save man from 50-foot fall near Columbia River Gorge trail

A 43-year-old man fell off a cliff in the gorge Tuesday and two other hikers came upon his location Friday evening, Hood River County Sheriff's Office said.
Credit: (Courtesy: Hood River County Sheriff)
A man was rescued from the Gorton Creek Trail in Cascade Locks, Ore. Friday evening after falling down a 50-foot cliff, Hood River County Sheriff's Office said.

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. β€” A man is alive thanks to the rescue efforts of first responders and two hikers who called authorities around 4 p.m. Friday.

Hood River County Sheriff's Office (HRCSO) was notified of a man who fell off a 50-foot cliff where he had been hiking Tuesday in the Gordon Creek Canyon.

The man was later identified as 43-year-old Morgan Bailey of Milwaukie. 

An HRCSO deputy, Oregon State Police trooper, Cascade Locks Fire, along with Hood River Crag Rats and Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue (PNWSAR) headed up the Gorton Creek Trail.

Rescuers said Bailey had fallen down the cliff and couldn't make it down the hazardous trail conditions himself. That's when rescue teams made the decision to request a helicopter extraction. 

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) assisted with airlifting the injured patient from the trail at approximately 6:45 p.m. to Legacy Emanuel Hospital. 

Rescuers said Bailey was in stable condition, conscious and breathing but possibly hypothermic. It was a close call for the injured hiker.

β€œHe was extremely fortunate. Had those hikers not located him, he had a very low chance of survival through the night. The work of the search and rescue teams, first responders and the quick response from the Coast Guard led to a successful outcome today,” Search & Rescue Coordinator Deputy Chris Guertin said.

Overnight, the low temperatures in the Columbia River Gorge were approximately 34 degrees and rescuers said Bailey likely would have not survived the night.

Crag Rats Mountain Rescue on-scene commander and physician Christopher Vantilburg also helped render aid to the injured hiker.

"This is what we do," Vantilburg said. Their unit is a mountaineering rescue team, and they respond to difficult terrain rescues in the mountains.

Vantilburg said more people are adventuring outdoors this year because of COVID and much of the Eagle Creek Trail system being closed still from fires. He said they've seen an uptick in calls for mountain rescues and have had three rescues in the last week.

The Crag Rats is the oldest mountain rescue team in the nation. Founded in 1926, the all-volunteer team is certified in high angle, avalanche and crevasse rescue by the Mountain Rescue Association.