Sunday, November 19, 2017 Elyria 39°


Firefighters rescue man who fell to river bank


Incident marks third tumble from wooded cliff in recent weeks

ELYRIA — A 31-year-old Elyria man is in a Cleveland hospital after he took a 30-foot tumble down a ravine and landed face down on the bank of the Black River.
Gene Lafferty III of Harrison Street was under observation at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland on Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.
He was walking in a wooded hillside area with his brother near his home shortly after 4 a.m. Thursday when he lost his footing and fell, Elyria Fire Capt. James Cawley said.
His brother, Jeff Lafferty, ran to a nearby home yelling for help and flagged down an Elyria police officer who had gone to the area to investigate the screams.
When help arrived, Lafferty was found lying face down on the bank with half his body in the water,
Cawley said. He was complaining of hip and back pain.
“He was pretty lucky he didn’t tumble another foot or two further,” Cawley added.
After assessing the scene, Cawley said firefighters lowered themselves down to Lafferty using ropes. He was conscious and talking.
The team of rescuers called for a backboard and head/neck brace. By using a Stokes basket, a cradle-type apparatus that allows an immobilized person to be hoisted to safety, Lafferty was lifted above the ravine.
Cawley said crews used trees from the wooded area to anchor themselves as they pulled Lafferty to safety.
It is a technique that is reinforced constantly in training, said Elyria Fire Capt. David Igneczi, the department’s training and safety officer.
“Regular rope and water-based rescue training is routinely conducted to ensure, should an emergency occur, there are always well-trained firefighters ready to respond,” he said.
“Every year we have at least two people who are walking along the river and suddenly take a tumble. People have that apathetic attitude that it’s not going to happen to them.”
Lafferty is the third person to fall from a cliff to the Black River in recent weeks.
Last month, a 38-year-old man fell about 70 feet down the steep cliff along Ford Road. Two days prior to that incident, a 20-year-old man was found lying at the bottom of a cliff in Elywood Park. He had fallen about 50 feet and was found five hours later. Firefighters launched a small boat into the Black River to retrieve the injured man.
Igneczi said he wants residents to be aware of dangers when walking through wooded and unfamiliar areas.
“Be very careful,” he said. “Unless you know the area, it is very easy to be walking along and suddenly fall. You never know that the blackness before you is really a steep drop-off.”
Igneczi said there are very few areas that can be considered safe. Due to erosion from the river under-cutting the rock, the edges of cliffs and ravines are very unstable, Igneczi said.
“My best advice is to go to an area where there are designated overlooks,” he said. “We don’t think about it, but there are a lot of areas in our city that are natural hazards.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or

* Be aware of your surroundings.
* Stay clear of edges of cliffs and drop-offs.
* Understand the natural hazards in your area before you go for a walk.
* Never travel alone.

Click to view comments
To Top

Fetching stories…