The 43-year-old Ogden man was severely wounded during an Oct. 25 BASE jumping accident near Moab, and he told his Facebook friends that he came very close to “leaving this world” as a result. Yet even as he underwent multiple surgeries to repair the damage to his nearly severed left foot and leg, he told “Climbing” magazine that he has every intention of returning to the sport.
The incident propelled McNeely to Internet fame, after grisly video footage he shot at the scene high above Kane Creek Boulevard appeared on YouTube. It also drew the public’s attention to an extreme sport in which participants jump from fixed objects such as buildings, antennas, bridges and cliffs, using parachutes to break their falls.
McNeely, a well-known figure in the BASE jumping and aid climbing communities, estimates that he has performed more than 1,000 jumps, according to a posting on his Facebook page.
Most of those jumps have gone off without a hitch. But a moment’s hesitation on Oct. 25 was perhaps all it took for circumstances to change.
McNeely wrote that he knew that something was wrong after jumped off the Moab Rim and struck the face of the cliff with his left foot. Upon impact, he began to “rag doll” down the cliff until he finally came to a stop on a sloping ledge, which gave him a chance to assess his injuries, he said.
“I knew I was banged up but to my utter surprise my foot was flipped on its side looking very similar to a nalgene (sic) bottle with just a sliver of skin keeping it on,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Blood was gushing from the wound, and even though he had the presence of mind to stop the bleeding with a makeshift tourniquet, another idea was also going through his mind.
The bleeding slowed as he wrapped his ankle just above the wound with a piece of webbing from his BASE-jumping equipment, and then used a stick to tighten the tourniquet.
It took his friends about 45 minutes to reach him, but the time they spent in setting up a three-bolt anchor and fixed lines probably saved his life, McNeely wrote. Grand County Search and Rescue’s technical rescue team members reached the ledge when they did only because the lines were in place when they arrived, he wrote.
McNeely was still conscious and alert by the time rescuers reached him, but he was gravely injured. By the time he reached St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, he had lost almost three pints of blood, McNeely estimated.
“I was absolutely prepared to wake up the next morning, minus a foot,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I joked about going full pirate mode with a peg leg but knew it could be a reality and was very sad about it.”
At the time of his Facebook posting, McNeely said he still wasn’t in the clear due to the risk of infection.
“But, I survived,” he wrote.