Father of boy who fell at Mt. Hood: 'His poor little body was just tumbling'
PORTLAND, Ore. - The father of a boy who fell while hiking on Mount Hood earlier this week described the harrowing rescue while speaking with reporters on Thursday morning.
Kim Hancock held an emotional news conference on Thursday at OHSU's Doernbecher Children's Hospital, describing the rescue of his 10-year-old son, who took a nasty fall during a hike on Tuesday and had to be carried out by a search and rescue crew.
About three hours went by between the time Cole fell and the time help arrived. That allowed Hancock plenty of time for prayer.
"I probably committed myself to God and the heavens more than any person has ever done before," Hancock said. "I think I'll be restricted to eating and breathing, which wouldn't be a hard thing to do for your boy.
"You joke about that kind of stuff a lot, and I know a lot of people who've gone through a lot of things, but it was different because I was alone and you kind of have a lot of free time."
What started out as a father-son camping trip turned into a near-tragedy sometime between 8 and 9 p.m. on Tuesday when Cole and Kim were walking down an embankment and Cole slipped.
"I just remember him running down and yelling at him to stop and he tripped head over heels, and his poor little body was just tumbling," an emotional Hancock said.
Kim rushed down the hill to find his son unconscious and bleeding. He picked Cole up, carried him a quarter-mile back to their tent, called 911 and began the longest wait of his life.
"At that point my son was vomiting blood," he said. "I had stripped him of his clothes. I put a dressing on his head. I had put a hand on his chest and it was pretty difficult to keep it on him and do other things and keep him on his side and answer that phone."
Hancock, a self-employed stone-floor installer who was previously in the Air Force, recently joined the Oregon National Guard so his children would have health insurance.
He said he badly misinterpreted the amount of risk he was undertaking on the hike, including underestimating how long it would take rescue crews to reach the heavily traveled area near the White River West Sno-Park.
He first called his wife, who attempted to call 911, but said dispatchers would talk only to him.
He finally got in touch, and rescue was on the way - but the wait was agonizing and chaotic.
"You've got multiple calls coming in and you miss calls and you call back and there's no one else on the line," he said. "And it's very scary.
"It concerned me when he started vomiting blood. Your brain thinks 'How long do I have?' And they're not giving me a timeframe."
By the time rescue crews had been contacted, assembled and hiked up the hill, three hours had passed.
Hancock - who lit a fire to help crews hone in on his location - said he was hoping rescuers would be able to drive up on quads, but instead they arrived by foot. Then, a Life Flight attempt was foiled by the mountain's ashy soil and a harried trip to the base began.
"You've gotta hike your son out, and I know that he's gotta be on his back somehow," Hancock said. "I know that he's vomiting. And your brain is wondering 'How can we make it out with him breathing?'"
After what Hancock described as an exceptionally intense hike down the hill, Cole was driven by ambulance to a waiting helicopter and air-lifted to OHSU.
All that was left for Hancock was facing his wife.
"She didn't hit me," he laughed. "This is horrible, but I thought 'Gosh, she's going to kill me. I've really hurt my son.
"Trying to tell your wife on the phone that your son' s injured and you don't know if you're even gonna make it (but) my wife, she hugged me, and she just tried to console me and tell me that it wasn't my fault."
Cole has three skull fractures, but his internal bleeding has stabilized and his breathing tube has been removed. The Hancocks are unsure if he'll have speech issues, which are a possibility because of the part of his brain that was impacted.
Kim said he's still conflicted on what, if anything, he would do differently next time.
"As a father, someone that's supposed to watch over and take care of their kids, you just look at all of it - especially afterwards - (and wonder) did I really need to get in this far?" he said. "(But) the hillside, he could have fallen down same-size hills from the parking lot."
And on the other hand, there's the fantastic trip that preceded the fall.
At one point during their hike, Kim picked apart a split rock and told Cole to pick up the piece of stone inside.
"I said 'You're the only one in millions of years, if ever, to have touched that rock,'" Kim said. "And he pulled it out and he put it in his hands and he goes 'I'm the only one?' He's like 'Dad, this is the coolest moment ever.'
"You start thinking about all of these things - was it worth it? And then you start thinking about all the things we enjoyed while we were there."