A China teenager continues to recover at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor after slipping and falling 30 feet down an embankment at Moxie Falls in Somerset County on Monday afternoon.
Antonio “Tony” Jacobs, 18, said that he’s still in the hospital being treated for his injuries, which include a badly sprained ankle, sprained ankle, a possible compressed fracture in his right knee, cracked and bruised ribs, staples in his elbow and many cuts and bruises.
Jacobs said that he and three of his friends, Garrett Keezer, Dylan Rowe and Elliot Stinchfield, got together to get outdoors and hike since they’ve all been at their homes because of stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The group climbed into Jacobs’ car and drove the hour-and-40 minutes from China to Moxie Falls, where they hiked a trail that led to the falls. After arriving at the main waterfall, they decided to continue down the trail a little more to get better photos.
“We found this opening off of the right side of the trail and we saw that it was a good sized drop-off,” Jacobs said. “We were going to try to maneuver our ways down there to get closer to the water.”
“The trip was a normal hike,” Stinchfield said. “We were having fun, making jokes, admiring the waterfalls.”
Jacobs said he led the group off the path and leaped to a tree to help him get to a flatter surface. In the process, he hit a patch of ice and lost his footing, sliding down the embankment.
“I remember I was traveling pretty fast, and I tried to grab onto something hoping it would stop me, but there wasn’t anything I could really grab onto,” Jacobs said.
During his fall, he hit a bump sending him into the air and landing on rocks alongside Moxie Stream but remained conscious. He said he did not hit his head or neck.
“I was scared that I was paralyzed because I couldn’t feel anything at first,” he said. “A few moments later I tried to move my legs and I was able to pull my feet out of the water a little. I noticed that I only had my right shoe on.”
As time went on, he said the injuries he sustained started to become more apparent as adrenaline wore off. His friends split up, two of them going to find help and Stinchfield climbing down to stay with Jacobs while they waited for help.
“When it happened, I was at the top and was looking down over the side where he fell, so I watched him the whole way,” said Stinchfield, 20. “When he was falling I was in shock and didn’t move at all, but in my mind, I was thinking, ‘oh crap, oh crap.’”
When Jacobs hit the bump, his friends could no longer see him or where he landed.
“The second he fell out of sight, I went down the side as fast as I could. The only thought in my head was that he is knocked out in the water or worse,” Stinchfield said.
As he began his descent to find his friend, he said he was overwhelmed with relief when he heard Jacobs yelling from the bottom.
“I was honestly a little relieved because that meant he was conscious and alive,” Stinchfield said. “When I got down to the bottom and I could see him, I got over to see if there was anything he could do.”
It was clear at that point that Jacobs had become immobile and could not get up.
Stinchfield said he yelled up to the friends at the top to call for help. While Stinchfield and Jacobs waited for help to arrive, Stinchfield assessed his friend and gave him his sweatshirt to wrap up his feet that had been in the water.
“Tony was in a lot of pain, but throughout most of it, he was pretty well-spirited and was making jokes at some points,” Stinchfield said. “I tried to keep his mind off of it. I had a good feeling that everything was going to be OK.”
The Maine Warden Service, the Border Patrol, Maine Forest Service, West Forks Fire and Rescue, Upper Kennebec Ambulance and civilian volunteers gathered at the embankment to rescue Jacobs.
Thirty minutes passed before two first responders arrived, who came down to see how he was doing, Jacobs said. About 20 minutes after that, he said rescuers came to get him.
“We were still down there for another 30 minutes just trying to set up a pulley system to drag me up the embankment,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said he fell around 4:15 Monday afternoon and the rescue from the embankment began around 6. He reached the top around 6:45, and was brought back down the trail. He was taken to an ambulance that brought him to a nearby LifeFlight helicopter for the flight to the Bangor hospital.
“Once the EMTs, fire rescue and the Border Patrol (arrived), they did a good job of assessing the situation and getting him warmed up since it was pretty cold and we were down there for a while,” Stinchfield said. “I tried to help out as much as I could, making sure Tony was good, holding stuff for the EMT and fire rescue, anything that I could do.”
Jacobs is still recovering from his injuries at Eastern Maine Medical Center, saying that he is still not quite sure of the exact injuries that he suffered in the accident as he waits for test results.
“I am not quite sure on what exact injuries I have,” Jacobs said. “I am still in pain and it is hard to walk … it is also hard to take deep breaths due to my rib injuries.”
Because of the pandemic, there are strict restrictions in place at the hospital. Stinchfield, Keezer and Rowe are not able to visit their friend.
“Only one person is allowed in the hospital per (patient) so we are not able to see him,” Stinchfield said.
Through the entire rescue, Stinchfield said that he was impressed by how his friend handled the situation, despite being stuck for hours with multiple injuries.
“While we carried (Jacobs) to the ATV, he was also making jokes and even asked if we were jealous that he is going to ride in a helicopter,” Stinchfield said. “I think that helped all of us realize that he is going to be OK.”