LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- A Searcy teen has a warning for anyone planning outdoor adventures for Father’s Day Weekend or over the summer: do not take nature for granted.
Blake Smith fell more than 90 feet over a waterfall, and miraculously survived. He was with three friends Wednesday afternoon at Petit Jean State Park. They attempted to hike the Cedar Falls Trail to get a view of the waterfall.
“I knew we were off-trail pretty quick,” said Brady Palmer, one of Smith’s friends, “but I didn’t think that was, like, a bad thing or something we weren’t supposed to do. You’re just out in the wilderness, so you don’t really think about it, you know? You’re just out exploring.”
“You’re looking at your feet, because you’re, like, on rocks and lots of sticks, and there’s spiders everywhere,” added Whitney Williamson. “We walked through a lot of cobwebs. So I don’t think we realized that we were not where we were supposed to be.”
The foursome found themselves at the top of Cedar Falls. Two of them were on one side of the creek, and two were on the other. Smith decided to walk across the creek to get to the other side, in hopes of finding a way down to the bottom.
“And I slipped, and I tumbled for about 10 or 15 feet,” he said.
“I mean, it happened in, like, super-slow motion, it felt like,” Palmer recalled. “I just started screaming his name. I don’t know why, I didn’t know what that was going to accomplish, but I just started screaming, “Blake” over and over again.”
Sage Smith, the other member of the group, heard Palmer’s screams.
“And I just get up and over in front of him and try to grab him, but there was nothing for me to hold onto,” he recalled. “So when I had him, I was starting to slide with him. And that was the scariest moment of my life, cause I never came so close to death, really.”
Sage Smith let go of Blake, who then fell onto the second level of the waterfall.
“When I was over the edge, I saw rocks right below me,” Blake Smith stated, “and I was like, ‘I gotta try my best to jump.’ And so, I just pushed off the best I could.”
None of his friends could see him fall the remaining 80 feet into the pond below, but they heard it.
“It was the loudest thud,” Williamson recalled, “and, like, in that moment, all of us went into shock.”
“It sounded like a bomb going off when he hit the water,” Palmer mentioned.
Sage Smith was the only one to see Blake Smith’s body in the water, face down.
“I thought he was either dead or unconscious,” Sage Smith said. “And that’s, like, I knew someone needed to get his face out of the water. That was my first reaction. And I had no way to get down there, so I yelled at these people, and hopefully they would help him.”
The group of hikers Smith yelled to did not hear his plea. The three friends called 911, then ran back down their path as fast as they could to get help. They did not know if Blake Smith was alive.
A nurse happened to be near the bottom of the falls, and helped Smith until paramedics arrived.
“They said that I walked out of the water. I don’t remember doing that,” Smith said. “With help, I think, but I don’t remember doing that at all. And then when I came to, it kind of felt like a dream, like waking up from a dream.”
A helicopter took Smith from Petit Jean to UAMS . Doctors diagnosed him with a concussion, a small fracture of his eye socket, a minor lung injury, and a few bruises and scrapes. They released him 24 hours after his fall.
“The doctors said I should be dead,” he mentioned. “Apparently, only two people in the last 50 years have made that fall and lived.”
His three friends did not get to see him until he was in the hospital. Park rangers kept them in a lodge for a while until a police officer arrived to ask them questions. When they finally reached Smith’s hospital room, he was in good spirits.
“The day it happened was very tough,” Palmer said, “just, not knowing what was gonna happen. And then, that first day, I was worried with what was going to happen; I didn’t really think about what did happen. And so, I mean, it crosses through your mind every now and then, like, the vision of him sliding, and that emotion comes back. But overall, it’s not been bad. We’re all there for each other and stuff, I know that.”
Smith believes a divine hand kept him alive that day.
“Definitely,” he said. “All God. It’s gotta be. The fact that there was a nurse—I think her name was Tracy, but I’m not 100 percent sure, because I was kind of out of it—but there was a nurse on the bottom. There was enough water in the pool that I didn’t die or hit bottom, and it’s usually very shallow there, and I didn’t know that. And just, kind of, everything added up, it’s definitely a God thing.”
He believes his scare should serve as a lesson for anyone else who plans to explore the Natural State.
“Don’t do it alone,” he advised. “Be with friends that really care about you. And look out for signs of where you’re not supposed to be. And be smart. I thought I was being smart about it, and I mean, I did my best in the situation to be as smart as I could, but I made a stupid mistake, and it was unnecessary.”
Smith, whose family describes him as an adventurer, said Friday he does not expect the fall to keep him down more than a week or two.
“Yeah, I’d like to go back,” he claimed. “I know (my friends) don’t really want to go back, but I would like to go back and actually find my way in the right way, and look at it from the bottom up. Because I still haven’t got a good look at the waterfall.”
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