N.S. woman shares survival story after falling 90 metres off Cape Split cliff
Published Tuesday, July 26, 2016 7:58PM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 26, 2016 8:27PM ADT
A Nova Scotia woman who fell nearly 300 feet from a steep cliff at Cape Split is convinced guardian angels helped her survive.
On July 9, Erin Handspiker was taking her dogs on a hike when they strayed a few feet from the trail in Nova Scotia’s Kings County and disappeared over a hill.
Handspiker then peeked over the embankment and assumed the dogs weren't able to climb back up. Intending to give them a nudge, she stepped over the ledge instead.
“I don't remember,” said Handspiker. “I just remember kind of taking a step down and then that's it. I briefly woke up during the rescue for a split second."
The eroded ground had given way beneath her feet, and it was 90 metres to the water below. Handspiker was fortunate when she slammed into a dead tree about halfway down. The old branches cradled her as she was semi-conscious on the side of the cliff.
“My collarbone is broken – that's the most uncomfortable,” she said. “I have eight fractured vertebrae, (a) fractured pelvis, I had internal bleeding so I was given two units of blood in the hospital. Then I had a possible hole in my esophagus or my trachea, I'm not sure which one.”
It took specialized rescue teams five and a half hours to lower her to a boat and get her to hospital.
A couple on the hiking trail, which overlooks the Bay of Fundy, had seen the mishap and called 911.
"I'm fortunate that I can walk, let alone that I'm alive,” said Handspiker. “The people who saw me fall would have been my main reason for being here because I was alone on the trail, so I wasn't seen falling.”
Handspiker spent five days in hospital. Those who assisted in the rescue say it’s all in a day’s work
“It was difficult getting down to her,” said rope rescuer Dwight Hines. “It was horrendous work for me. It was by far the hardest rescue and any sort of fire-related call that I've ever done."
A military helicopter was dispatched, and the teams worked together on the unstable ground.
“Considering the area we were, and the task we had at hand, it went very well," said Pat Ricketts.
Handspiker showed her gratitude a few days ago by paying a visit to the people who saved her life, although she feels there's no way to ever repay them.
“I feel humbled and beyond grateful because I know for a fact I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for them," she said.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.