Warning: Extremely Graphic
BASE jumping and climbing legend Ammon McNeely was seriously injured after a jump in Moab, Utah. We share the video from YouTube at the bottom, but be warned that it is extremely graphic.
McNeely describes the factors leading up to the incident on his Facebook page (warning: extremely graphic photo in link). His account has gone viral beyond belief, both in skydiving/BASE communities as well as on YouTube and similar sites. He shares some back story as well, about jumping and climbing in National Parks.
A little background information for those who don’t know or are unclear of the days leading up to the Moab accident. Most of you know of my troubles with jumping in Yosemite. Back then I had three BASE rigs, two modern canopies and one old school Fox with a velcro container. My first time getting busted in Yosemite they allowed me to “buy” back my gear for 1,500, plus the 2,500 fine that went with being a “criminal”. I figured I was just unlucky and continued jumping in the park. I ended up selling one of my rigs to help pay for the fine I had acquired. The second time, yes there was a second bust, they took my gear without the option of “buying” it back, gave me a $5000 fine and sent me to prison for 38 days.
I guess you could say that I learned my “lesson” after that. I was done jumping in National Parks and continued following my climbing and jumping passions elsewhere. That just left me with a very used old school velcro rig to play with, until I could afford some more modern gear. I adapted and learned to jump this older gear with precision and confidence. But, I started to notice that one of my brake settings was getting a bit frayed and needed replaced. This is where I should have been a lot more cautious about something new, but with 1000+ jumps, felt quite confident. Just like in climbing, it’s best to experiment with singular differences rather than a handful, or even a couple of new variations. In this case, new brake lines and an exit that I had never experienced before. I should have taken them back to the bridge in Idaho or jumped an exit that I was very familiar with.
So, I was down in Moab mentoring my friend Dave who had 50+ jumps and hadn’t been off a cliff, yet. He was doing all the right steps and I took him under my wing. We did a jump in Northern Utah and went down to Moab and hucked a couple of cliffs in Mineral Bottom, which he did great. The day of the accident, after picking up my repaired gear, we ran into Andy Lewis and came up with a plan for a sunset jump.
We were with one other jumper who was new and I voted that Andy goes first, the two new guys go in the middle and I go last. They had perfect exits, great openings with no wind. I jumped, probably took a tad longer delay than I should have, being it was a new exit with new brake lines and immediately had a 180 degree opening. I struck the cliff with my left foot and continued rag dolling down the cliff where I finally came to rest on a sloping ledge. I knew I was banged up but to my utter surprise my foot was flipped on its side looking very similar to a nalgene bottle with just a sliver of skin keeping it on.
My first thought was, I want to wiggle my toes, because this is the last time I will ever feel that sensation. Blood was squirting everywhere and I knew my only option was to somehow tourniquet it to stop the bleeding. I used my bridal (a flat piece of webbing) that attaches my pilot chute and canopy to wrap the ankle just above the open wound. I then used a stick and propelled it tighter and tighter until the spurts subsided. I yelled down that I needed a helicopter ASAP and that I lost my foot and might bleed out.
This is when Andy, Brent and a few other Moab locals jumped into action, also, Dave who is an EMT. It took about 45 minutes before they could get to me, drilled a three bolt anchor and had fixed lines set before SAR even got there. Setting up the lines saved the rescue a couple of hours of them getting me back to the road and most likely my life. I lost nearly three pints of blood and was very close to leaving this world by the time the helicopter got me to the hospital.
I was absolutely prepared to wake up the next morning, minus a foot. I joked about going full pirate mode with a peg leg but knew it could be a reality and was very sad about it. Somehow, they saved it. I’m not completely in the clear at this moment, due to possible infection… but, I survived.
So, the question is; Do we stand up and take the risks and have a blast enjoying our passions in life? Or, do we hide in the shadows, being afraid of what might happen if we are so bold to follow our dreams?
Ammon McNeely clearly possesses mental and physical toughness like few others. His vast experience certainly comes in handy and allows him to quickly assess and react to his serious injuries, and is no doubt the primary reason this incident did not turn into a fatality. Mad props for sharing the details of the incident, allowing others to learn and prepare.
We send our best wishes for a full and fast recovery.