A trespasser who voluntarily jumped into a mineshaft at the bottom of Meteor Crater was rescued by a multi-agency response team involving more than 30 rescuers. The rescue lasted more than eight hours in temperatures of 20 degrees and below, with a wind chill factor of below zero. According to a witness and the victim, twenty-eight year-old Parminder Singh of Union City, California jumped into the shaft and fell more than 100 feet.
Meteor Crater is a visitor attraction located just off I-40 in northern Arizona. Thousands visit the terrestrial impact crater every year, but visitors are required to stay on the trails at the crater rim. Yesterday afternoon, an employee of Meteor Crater park spotted the trespasser near the bottom of the crater and called the local sheriff’s office.
As the first Coconino County Sheriff’s deputy drove to the crater, the employee, positioned at the Visitor’s Center with binoculars, continued to observe the intruder. Just before the deputy arrived, the employee witnessed the subject jump feet first into the mineshaft.
Once the Deputy heard the witness's report, he immediately requested additional resources including the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit and air support. Access to the mineshaft was difficult, requiring a one-mile hike that drops 600 feet in elevation to the bottom of the crater. A Guardian Medical Transport Helicopter responded and conducted multiple flights as the crew inserted rescue personnel.
As rescuers reached the opening of the shaft, they found it surrounded by a seven-foot fence topped with several strands of barbed wire. Rescuers were forced to cut their way through the barricade to the mineshaft. Personnel learned the suspect fell a vertical distance of more than 100 feet to the bottom of the shaft after he jumped. At about 8:22 pm rescuers called out to the victim and heard a muffled reply indicating the victim was still alive. Due to the freezing temperatures and winds, rescuers were not able to understand what the victim was attempting to tell them.
Rescuers lowered food, water, a portable radio, warm clothing and a flashlight to the victim. Once he received the supplies, he was able to communicate with his rescuers via the radio. He informed them that he believed he had dislocated and broke his right arm, broke one of his legs, and complained of severe pain to both of his legs. He reported frequent episodes of loss of consciousness.
Multi-agency resources and responders included a Guardian Air Medical Helicopter and crew, several Coconino County Sheriff’s Deputies, twelve members of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Technical Team, four members of the Flagstaff Fire Department Technical Rescue Team Members, two Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies, and eight members of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Certified Technical Mine Rescue Team.
Rescuers attempted to construct a rope hoist system that would allow them to enter and exit the shaft. The soft material surrounding the shaft made it impossible for them to create anchors for the ropes. An employee of HomeCo Ace Home Center in Flagstaff brought a T-post insertion tool and posts that allowed rescuers to create an anchor system.
A member of the Flagstaff Fire Department Technical Rescue Team was lowered 100 feet to the victim’s location. It took an hour to medically assess the victim, provide initial treatment, and prepare the victim to be lifted one hundred feet to safety. The victim who was suffering from severe hypothermia was then carried up the 600-foot incline and a distance of more than a mile to the parking lot of the visitor’s center. Due to the high winds and low temperatures, flying the victim out of the crater was not a safe option. During an interview with Deputies, Mr. Singh said he intentionally jumped into the shaft in an attempt to “Appease the Gods.” He was transported to the Flagstaff Medical Center where he is listed in stable condition.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office thanked all of the responders and agencies that helped make the rescue a success and ensuring the safety of all involved. “The rescuers are highly trained agency personnel and volunteers who spend many hours practicing and honing specialized skills. Their ability to work flexibly in various teams structures is an important part of their training. Their response relies not only on training but also on special equipment and the ability to come up with unique, safe solutions such as the alternative anchoring system used in this response. These dedicated, trained responders and volunteers are ready to respond at a moment’s notice to aid others in need,” said a county official.
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