VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — A 20-year-old man made an astounding recovery after falling nearly 60 feet from a tree and into the Washougal River earlier this month. Now, he’s urging people to take extra caution while adventuring in the outdoors this summer.
Kyle Ponciano said it was just a normal day when he and a group of friends made their second trek up to Naked Falls on June 6. A little alcohol and some daring jumps quickly turned into a deadly combination.
“I had been jumping from the tree all day, multiple times, and didn’t have any problems at all,” Ponciano told KOIN 6 News. “I actually thought I could go one more branch higher than I had been, and that is when it happened.”
Around 4:30 p.m., the branches Ponciano was holding and standing on snapped. He said it was the last thing he remembered.
“I remember dozing off and my friends yelling in my face, ‘Kyle, wake up!'” Ponciano said. “It was wild.”
Two hours later, the 20-year-old was in surgery. He had to be placed in a medically-induced coma after suffering a torn abdomen, stitches to his lower abdomen, a partially collapsed and bruised lung, a shattered right elbow and broken pelvis.
“The first probably 5 days in the hospital were the worst because my pain tolerance was so low and everything hurt,” Ponciano said.
Several surgeries later, Ponciano is in good spirits. He was sent home from the hospital earlier this week. As he continues his road to recovery, he said he has a message for others.
“I want people to know they’re not invincible,” Ponciano said. “I definitely didn’t think that anything like this could ever happen to me.”
Ponciano said his fall was traumatic, not only for himself, but for his family as well.
“I never want to put my family through something like this again, and now I can make much more responsible decisions,” he said. “I can tell it hurt them inside, seeing me like that.”
After falling into the river, several of Ponciano’s friends jumped in to help him. But it was another man Ponciano credits with saving his life.
“The guy that jumped in after me, still to this day we don’t know who that guy is by name, he was just a random bystander but that young man saved my life,” Ponciano said. “I was completely in shock and I don’t know if I’d have come up without his help. I owe my life to him, I really do.”
Doctor’s said it will be another 3 months before Ponciano can put any weight on his right leg. Eventually, he’ll get the mobility back in his elbow and return to his job at Toyota.