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Student survives 30-foot fall
Courtney Barry’s typical hike on the Sleeping Giant mountain ended wretchedly after she fell nearly 30 feet, landing on rocks during her mid day hike on Nov. 16.
The senior was free-climbing the part of the mountain that looks up to “the chin” of the Sleeping Giant. She and senior Alex Burgos’ destination was the top peak that overlooks the university campus. While many students follow the blue trail up to that point, Barry and Burgos decided to free climb the steep rocks; something Fire Chief David Berardesca says nobody should be doing.
Barry and Burgos were nearly 10 feet from the top, when the climb became more difficult. Barry struggled before grasping onto a rock. She pushed her leg up on another rock, when it came loose and she fell off the rock.
“I remember initially quickly sliding down and I thought I would catch something and that is when I started going fast and falling and realized that I was not stopping,” Barry explained.
Once she hit the ground she was still conscious of what had happened.
“After the fall I was just waiting,” Barry said. “I was completely freaking out. I was convulsively shaking.”
Witnesses say she fell about 30 feet. And still, where she landed was a climb away from the flat path many take to the castle. One Hamden resident climbed to rescue her. The resident says she was shocked to see Barry alive and moving.
The rescue was immediately called by others watching and the Hamden Fire Department and Park Rangers came to Barry’s rescue.
She said they harnessed her and then brought her down. Within an hour of her fall, Barry says she was on her way to the Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Barry suffered from bruising and used crutches for a few days due to a minor injury in her left quad.
Burgos, who had done the same climb three or four times before says he was pretty distressed watching the incident occur.
“After I saw it happened and I knew she was settled and had stopped falling I kind of assessed what was going on and then climbed to the top of the mountain we were at and then ran down to where we were at,” Burgos said.
When Burgos reached the point where Barry was, the Hamden Fire Department and EMTs were at the scene. Chief Berardesca says his crew is used to accidents like this occurring.
“It’s a very busy mountain and on the weekends we get a number of people,” Berardesca said. “We have a number of rescue calls or trying to find a lost hiker.”
Berardesca says lost hikers are most frequent.
“People are up there, they get disoriented and it gets dark…it gets pitch black up there with all of the trees,” he said.
Berardesca recommends students always have a charged cell phone and always hike with someone else. He also recommends hikers bring some sort of flashlight because it is much harder to find your way down when it is dark.
The Hamden Fire Department is looking into having an orientation for students at Quinnipiac, according to Berardesca. He says they will provide students with hiking tips, talk about the mountain and teach students how to be safe when hiking.
Barry says she does not plan to do the same hike again, however, she does want to get back on the mountain as soon as possible to ensure that she is not afraid of it later.
“It is a miracle that she is alive, she is very lucky and when it all comes down to it,” Burgos said. “There has to be somebody looking out for her and she shouldn’t be alive after a fall like that and the conditions that there were because it was all rock. She is very lucky to be alive.”