One of Batavia High's standout students was among a group of heroes Friday who came to the rescue of a teenage girl who hit her head on a rock when she fell several feet from a cliff at Indian Falls.
The girl, Kourtney McCorry, 17, of Spencerport, was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital by Mercy Flight, but was conscious and alert after being pulled from the water.
Deputy Timothy Wescott said he was able to interview McCorry at the scene before she was transported and she was aware of her surroundings, recognized her father and understood what was happening.
She remembered, according to Wescott, climbing up the cliff of the falls with the help of her boyfriend. She grabbed the branch of a tree and the branch gave way. She fell and remembers seeing rocks below her and then she blacked out.
"She said she didn't know if she blacked out because she hit the rocks or out of fear of what might happen to her," Wescott said.
Evan Sutherland, a Batavia High School basketball player and member of the championship mock trial team, was at the falls with his friend, Andrew Hoy, a recent graduate of BHS and the Blue Devil's all-time leading scorer in basketball.
Sutherland (left inset photo from one of his mock trial appearances this year) was the first to dive in the water to try and rescue the girl, Hoy said.
"I had just walked up and I got to like the edge of the cliff and saw her falling and she landed head first on the rocks," Hoy said. "It looked like her neck snapped. Then she went under for a few seconds and we couldn’t find her. We were still standing at the top and then she floated to the top of the water and my friend Evan Sutherland was the first one to react and he jumped into the water and there was another one of her friends over from where she fell from and he jumped in, too. They both dragged her out."
Hoy said the girl regained consciousness while she was still in the water, and Westcott said McCorry remembered coming to in the water surrounded by people.
The Batavian tried to interview Sutherland at the scene, but one of the Log Cabin's unruly patrons interfered with the interview and told him not to talk to the media.
Attempts to contact Sutherland Friday night were unsuccessful.
The legendary Log Cabin Restaurant, which includes a bar, is next to the falls and while the rescue was under way, the owner sent a representative to talk to journalists at the scene from The Batavian and the Daily News with a request that media outlets not report that the kids who swim and dive at the falls might enter the falls from the Log Cabin's property.
It's unknown how McCorry, Hoy and Sutherland, among the other youths enjoying the falls Friday, entered the area.
The section of the Tonawanda Creek in the area of Indian Falls is owned by Genesee County and people can enter the area from near Route 77 without trespassing on private property.
The volunteer fire departments of Indian Falls and Pembroke were the first emergency responders on scene.
Indian Falls and Pembroke volunteers set up a rope line across the creek and walked through the water to the north bank.
The Genesee County Rope Team -- made up of more than 20 volunteers from all of the county's volunteer fire departments -- responded to the scene along with Genesee County Emergency Services.
The team found a clearing in the brush along the creek's cliff on the north side and lowered a stretcher down to McCorry's location. Medical personnel were then lowered down.
It took more than 90 minutes to stabilize McCorry and slowly lift her to the top of the cliff.
Indian Falls Fire Chief Ed Mileham (bottom right inset) explained that it's a slow process to ensure both the safety of the victim and the rope crews.
"When you look at the fact that she's down 70 feet, the safest way up is up the bank," Mileham said. "We had 20 guys here from the (rope) team, they got down there, two of them set up harnesses and then they go down the bank -- yeah, by the time they get set up and everything, there's a little bit of time, but she appeared to be stable, so the guys were able to take their time and make sure they were safe before they got down in there."
Friday's mishap wasn't the first time this summer that Indian Falls and Pembroke responded to a near drowning at the falls.
On June 5, another person looking for some recreation on the falls fell in and had to be rescued.
"It’s pretty dangerous," Mileham said. "If they don’t get far enough from the falls, they hit the rocks."
However, only two calls this summer is a far cry from how things used to be, Mileham noted.
"There’s been a problem down here for years," Mileham said. "Back in the '60s and '70s it used to be quite a place for kids to party and swim. I’ve been told that at one point there were 10 to 12 drownings here in one year from diving off the falls."
The Alabama and Oakfield fire departments also assisted at the scene.