WASHINGTON COUNTY (ABC4 News) – A 43-year-old hiker at the popular Gunlock Falls suffered severe injuries Wednesday after he rescued his 7-year-old nephew who fell in the water, marking the second time in three days first responders were called to the area.
Washington County Search and Rescue crews said they wish they could tell every person who comes to the falls to avoid getting within 10 feet of the water, adding that it may look only shin or knee-deep, but it’ll sweep visitors off their feet.
“Keep an eye on your children because they’ll be swept away so fast you won’t even be able to react before they’re gone,” said Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue liaison Sgt. Darrell Cashin.
Cashin said a 7-year-old boy was playing in the water when moss on the rocks caused him to slip, and strong currents pulled him underwater.
“You’re getting bounced over rocks, into debris, or going over big cliffs which have a 60-foot drop into a boulder,” said Cashin.
Emergency personnel said the boy was speeding towards an area called a strainer, where debris allows water to pass through but traps people and objects underwater.
“Had that uncle not gotten him out, there’s a high probability he would’ve been stuck on that strainer and potentially drowned,” added Cashin.
Authorities said the boy’s uncle sustained a severe back injury but is in stable condition.
Washington County Search and Rescue crews said most of the injuries in the past month have occurred near the top of the falls, where the water quickly increases speed and volume once it passes through a gradient below.
Hikers in the area said they’re increasingly concerned with those who are still not taking extra precautions.
“People want that perfect Instagram photo or want to appear dangerous, so they do dangerous things thinking it’s gonna be like Disneyland and the worst happens,” said hiker Carlie Graves.
Emergency crews recommend avoiding the falls completely and keeping children in the slower moving pools.
This incident marks the fifth time Washington County Search and Rescue crews have rushed to the falls in less than three weeks.
Cashin said water levels should come down over the next few weeks, making the currents less swift and more shallow. The infamous Gunlock falls, attracting thousands to the area, will disappear within the next month, he added.