BLAINE COUNTY -- Jordan Niedrich is a 21-year-old speed flyer who crashed into the side of Lookout Mountain south of Bellevue Saturday night.
Backcountry rescuers from throughout the Wood River Valley teamed up to get him off the mountain. Their efforts paid off, because Niedrich survived a terrifying accident that could have paralyzed or killed him.
Speed flying is an extreme sport that is a combination of paragliding and base jumping. Speed flyers typically take flight from a mountain peak or hillside, then cruise very close to the slope as they descend.
Niedrich and about seven of his friends decided to speed fly Lookout Mountain around 8 p.m. Saturday, June 8th.
Niedrich doesn't remember much afterward. His first real memory of the incident was waking up at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise after surgery. His friends told him later what happened.
"I made about five turns, and on my sixth turn I was making a real big one and got about three-fourths into it and just went straight into the mountain," said Niedrich.
TECHNICAL ROPE RESCUE
What followed would be one of Wood River Fire and Rescue's most technical rescues in the department's history. The technical rope rescue took nearly 10 hours.
"In my 15 years on the fire department, we've never had anything even close to this type of a lowering rope rescue situation," said Wood River Fire and Rescue Captain Rich Bauer. "This was a big complicated operation."
Officials say it was too dark and dangerous for any rescue helicopter to land near the crash site, and that's why crews opted to make the rescue on foot and with ropes.
Bauer says the first rescue team reached Niedrich in about two hours after the crash. They had him stabilized, but Jordan was badly injured and needed to get off the mountain.
That help would come from the top of the mountain from Ketchum/Sun Valley Backcountry Medical Rescue, an organization that used two 300-foot ropes tied together to lower the 21-year-old down Lookout Mountain.
"That's what made this rescue so difficult is that there was no trees or big rocks. There was nothing to set up your rope system, so what we had to use were pickets," said Bauer.
Rescuers had to hammer the metal pickets into the steep mountainside every 400 to 600 feet to anchor the ropes. With Niedrich stuck 1,800 feet up, it was a long, difficult maneuver that lasted overnight.
"I can't say enough about how well the rescuers preformed, such adverse conditions, working at night with such technical, difficult rescue," said Bauer. "We always say, 'risk a lot to save a lot,' and that's basically what we did that night."
SPEED FLYER RECOVERS
By 5:30 Sunday morning, Niedrich was on the ground and on his way to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.
"It's amazing they had to hike all the way up there, and then they hiked all the way down with me," said Niedrich. "It's a lot of work for them. I'm really grateful for that."
Niedrich broke his leg, sprained his ankles and has cuts up and down his legs and arms. His recovery is expected to take six weeks, but he's already looking forward to getting back up in the air.
"Like I told my dad -- I'm not afraid to die," Niedrich told KTVB. "I'm afraid to not live fully. So I like to do these things."