BYRON – A 14-year-old girl was injured Friday afternoon when she slipped and fell or jumped 25 feet off a rock ledge below Coos Canyon bridge into the Swift River, rescue officials said.

They said she landed on her back and head on either water or rocks, then floated or half-swam downstream about 50 yards to wher e she was pulled by family members onto a more accessible rock ledge.

“Where she fell, there’s nothing but rock ledge on both sides, so she had to have either floated or swam down to where she could get out,” said Med-Care Assistant Director Chris Moretto.

Identified only as Ashley by rescuers and her parents, the girl was apparently in extreme pain while lying on her back. Her unmoving lower legs and feet lay in the water as her parents, Med-Care and Roxbury and Byron firefighters tended to her.

The accident happened about 2:25 p.m. Within an hour of being lifted out of the canyon and loaded into a waiting Med-Care Ambulance, the girl was flown to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Her condition was not immediately available.

Moretto said the girl suffered leg, abdomen, back and head injuries.

“We’re unsure if she suffered any fractures, but she said she had pain in her back, lower legs and chest. But whether her chest pain was from a back injury, we don’t know,” Moretto said.

A crowd of adults and children dressed in swim wear watched from the bridge as the Rumford Fire Department’s Ropes Rescue Team set up a rope and pulley system to help lift her out of the canyon some 50 feet below.

A narrow ladder was used to help guide an orange litter, into which the girl was strapped, out of the canyon. Firefighters then carried her through woods to the ambulance, which took her 4 miles north on Route 17 to a large field to await medical helicopter transport.

“We probably could have got her out without ropes, but as slippery as those rocks were, ropes were used more for safety reasons, because there was too much of a chance that people would get hurt trying to carry her out,” Moretto said.

Her parents got into a vehicle with Vermont registration plates and left the scene after she was taken to the helicopter.

Rescuers at the river said she was there on a family swimming outing, as were several other families. Coos Canyon is a popular spot to beat the summer heat. And even though it’s dangerous, people frequently jump off the bridge and ledges into small pools below, Byron Deputy Fire Chief Bob Susbury Jr. said.


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