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September 6, 2004

Accident at Huntington Gorge

From: WCAX, VT - Sept 6, 2004

Richmond, Vermont - September 6, 2004

Rescue crews assembled quickly at the edge of Huntington Gorge in Richmond. A 911 caller reported a man had fallen. It was a frightening sight for his friends who witnessed it.

"I got scared the minute I saw him go over, my heart stopped," said Mary Lou Mistretta.

The man was on a day-trip with folks visiting Vermont for a conference on the hearing impaired. The victim who fell is deaf and suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Witnesses say the victim was standing and taking pictures of the gorge when he turned to walk away, lost his balance and fell 40 feet below.

"I see he was off balance and I said to (my friend), he's going to fall, and he got closer and closer and when I said he's going to fall-- boom! He fell!" said Helen Boveda who witnessed the fall.

Witnesses say a deep pool of water below broke his fall. And the man was able to cling to a rock, pulling himself safely out of the water. But he was unable to climb out of the gorge.

A couple visiting the gorge rushed to help and got a quick lesson in sign language from the man's peers-- learning to sign "Help is coming."

When rescue crews arrived, a notepad and pen were lowered to the victim.

"So that he could write what was wrong with him and his name and where he was from," explained Richmond Police Ofc. Sarah Messier.

Rescuers determined the man was not seriously injured and helped him to safety. After 90 minutes, Mark Dessert, 51, was literally out of the woods, walking a portion of the rescue route on his own. The Pennsylvania man suffered only minor injuries in the fall. He was treated at the scene and welcomed by friends who feared the worst. A happy ending this time, but the Huntington Gorge can be a deadly place for visitors. At least 21 people have died there since 1950.

Darren Perron - Channel 3 News

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