Firefighters rescue Vermilion man who fell down cliff while mowing his lawn

VERMILION, Ohio-– Dave Watkins is recovering at home after he fell more than 35 feet off a cliff in his backyard.

Watkins said he was mowing the lawn at his home on Edgewater Drive in Vermilion Friday evening when something happened to the steering of the mower: It turned strangely and he went off the cliff.

“When I went to make it turn around, something funny happened. And it just happened so fast and I was rolling down the hill there,” Watkins said.

Watkins was able to stand up and then realized he was badly injured.

“I was pretty much in shock, you know. Only thing I really felt was my wrist and I tried to start climbing out of there and it was like, no, I better not. I’ll just hurt myself even more,” Watkins said.

Watkins yelled for help, his neighbor heard him and called police.

“The cliff edge had a lot of brick, broken brick, rebar, a lot of debris down the cliff and at the base of the cliff at the lake edge so that was a challenge for us,” said Vermilion Fire Chief Chris Stempowski.

Stempowski helped direct the response and rescue at the cliff.

“We immobilized the patient, put him onto a backboard and then into a Stokes basket, placed a helmet over his face and then protected his body so we could then ascend him back up to the top,” Stempowski said.

It took around 25 firefighters and police to maneuver the complicated ropes rescue down the cliff and pull Watkins to safety.

“Those guys are amazing, absolutely amazing. They had no problems, there was no hang ups, they knew what the hell they were doing. And I don’t know how long it took, but it didn’t seem like it took that long for them to get me out of there,” he said.

Watkins was taken to a local hospital and transferred to Metro Health in Cleveland. He has a small bleed on his brain, a broken nose, broken wrist, broken ribs and two hairline fractures in his spine.

“I’m really grateful for the police department and the fire department in Vermilion here, what they do is amazing,” Watkins said.