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Flagstaff, AZ - Twenty eight year-old Parminder Singh of Union City, California was rescued from the floor of a vertical mine shaft in the bottom of Meteor Crater. The rescue was conducted by a multi-agency response team involving more than 30 rescuers from three different agencies. 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, Parminder voluntarily jumped into a mine shaft and fell a vertical distance of more than 100 feet.
On Thursday, January 10, 2013 at about 4:00 pm, an employee of the Meteor Crater park called the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office to report a male subject who was trespassing at the bottom of the crater which is closed to public access. While the first Coconino County Sheriff’s Deputy drove to the crater, the employee who was positioned at the Visitor’s Center continued to watch the trespasser through binoculars. Upon the Deputy’s arrival the employee informed him that he had just witnessed the subject jump feet first into a mine shaft.
The Deputy immediately requested additional resources to include the Coconino County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit and air support. Access to the mine shaft was difficult, requiring a one mile hike with a 600 foot drop in elevation to reach 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 to be surrounded by a seven foot fence topped with several strands of barbed wire. Rescuers were forced to cut their way through to the mine shaft. 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. They lowered supplies including food, water, a portable radio, warm clothing and a flash light 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 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 extends thanks to all of the responders and agencies that helped make this rescue a success, 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.
Contact: Gerry Blair, PIO Coconino County Sheriff's Office, 928-226-5089