A teenager who survived a frightening 35ft fall from rocks at Kinnego Bay says he feels ‘extremely lucky’ to be alive.
Altan Dean has thanked all those involved in his rescue, including the emergency services, two men who radioed the coastguard and his friends who first raised the alarm and stayed by his side.
The 17-year-old, from Redcastle, told the ‘Journal’ he and his friends - from Derry and Inishowen - had been having a ‘great day’ on Sunday last and decided to go rock climbing at the popular bay.
Altan, who has rock climbing experience, said they were all ‘chatting away and not really paying attention to how far out we were getting - it was really beautiful.’
They had been on the rocks for around an hour when Altan reached out to a part of the rock to check its sturdiness. Satisfied it was safe, he then reached out his other hand ‘to grab it,’ when he ‘felt it break.’ It hit my shoulder, then hit the ground. It’s strange, but it felt like I had time to think about what to do. I looked over my shoulder as I fell and saw my friend looking up at me. I realised then how high up I was. I knew there was nothing I could do.”
His previous time spent climbing and skateboarding taught him not to tense when he fell, so he bent his arms and legs in a bid to relax his body.
“The only thing I don’t remember is hitting the ground. As I came down, my friend who was standing at the bottom, turned around and my foot hit his back. I reckon he broke my fall and that whatever way I fell then, the impact went around one side of my body, rather than one main impact. I ended up with minimal injuries all along the one side.”
Altan sustained two fractures to his skull, a broken wrist and received stitches for injuries to his knee and shoulder. As he lay on the ground, he took a seizure and woke up to his friends screaming. Two of his friends were trained in first aid and wrapped a towel tightly around his head to stem the bleeding, while they also ensured his tongue didn’t block his airway.
Altan told how he was in no pain and initially didn’t realise how serious the situation was. “I was telling my friends to calm down. I pushed myself up, dragged myself out of a hole, then lay down and couldn’t move.”
Altan told how neither he or any of his friends could get any phone signal to call for help. So, two of his friends sprinted over rocks for more than half an hour before they came across two campers, one of whom had a radio and notified the Malin Head Coastguard MRSC. They tasked Greencastle Coast Guard to the scene, who stretchered Altan from the rocks on to a boat and to shore, before he was airlifted to Letterkenny University Hospital where he spent two days.
He was full of praise for all involved in the rescue and his medical treatment. “Everyone was a great help. They made me feel calm and comfortable. I didn’t feel any pain at all.”
He added: “I also couldn’t have asked for better mates to be with me at a time like it.”
Now at home and up and about, Altan told how the enormity of what happened was not lost on him. “I honestly feel grand and happy. There’s obviously a bit of trauma and you wonder what could have happened. I am extremely lucky to be alive. I’ll never grasp just how close I came to dying.”
It hasn’t put him off rock climbing, however, but he said that, next time, he would ensure he knew just how high he was climbing and check he always had a phone signal.
“It’s actually amazing that I’m here, out and about, after falling 35ft from a rock.”