Monday, February 6, 2012

Grand Junction Man Survives fall From Cliff Thanks to Teen Rescuer

"Next thing I knew there was nothing below me. I was falling off the cliff."

By Matt Kroschel

Mesa County - December 26, 2011, started like any other day on the trail.

John Mallow will admit that by no means does he consider himself an expert mountain bike rider, but like many outdoor lovers in Colorado, he welcomes the challenge of a single track.

As he pedaled along Mary’s Loop that afternoon, one split-second choice changed his life forever.

“I thought I could go on the other path--it would shoot me across to the other ledge--but the next thing I knew, there was nothing below me, and I knew I was falling off the cliff,” Mallow recounted.

Alone, badly hurt, and shivering, he called out for help.

“The pain was immense. My entire body was aching, and I was getting cold,” Mallow said.

As the sunlight began to fade over the Western Slope, so did hope. The situation was looking grim, when all at once, out of silence, Mallow heard voices from the cliffs towering over his crumpled and broken body.

“We heard some moans coming from down below us and we looked down and saw a man in a weird position,” 17-year-old Central High School senior Shawn Votruba told NewsChannel 5. “I could tell he was in pretty bad shape, and my instincts just kind of took over,” Votruba said.

Call it luck or fate or maybe even a higher power stepping in, but Votruba happened to have taken emergency medical training courses through Western Colorado Community College weeks before.

For several hours, as Lower Valley Fire and rescue teams and Mesa County Search and Rescue crews hiked into the accident scene, Votruba stayed by Mallow’s side, giving him lifesaving medical care.

Mallow was flown to Saint Mary’s hours later, but doctors were still not sure he would make it through the night. He had broken several ribs, a collapsed lung, a broken shoulder bone, broken back, and a head wound.

The damage from that cold December day is far from being erased, but Mallow has made a remarkable recovery in a relatively short time.

As for this near-death experience, Mallow said his gratitude for Shawn and the other rescuers cannot be put in words.

Mallow broke down in tears during the course of recounting he accident and incredible luck that Shawn happened to be on the trail that day.

In the last month the word "hero" has been tossed several times in Shawn's direction. “I think I’m just a normal guy who had to do what needed to be done,” said Votruba.

Mallow will present Shawn an award during a presentation at Central High School. Shawn plans on graduating high school and joining the army as a medic.