Appalachian student injured after rappelling accident

Appalachian student injured after rappelling accident

Nicole Caporaso

Chad Mullins, a junior recreation management major, fell and sustained several injuries Saturday at 1:30 p.m. while rappelling with six other Appalachian State University students at Little Lost Cove Cliffs in Avery County.

Chris Moore, a senior recreation management and close friend of Mullins, was present at the time of the accident and said Mullins’ injuries are two broken toes, a broken nose, a dislocated shoulder and possibly a broken hand.

Charlotte’s WSOC-TV reported that Mullins fell 70 feet and was flown to Johnson City Medical Center after being moved more than a mile from the site of the accident. Various media reports Monday stated Mullins is in good condition.

Moore said it is unclear how the accident happened because of all the precautions Mullins took.

“What we know for sure is that when he backed off the edge of the cliff, he did so with all of the proper precautions and from the top it appeared that gear was used properly,” Mullins said. “In investigating later that day, myself and a rescue member actually used his same anchor, so it was not that he made an error in setting up.”

Moore said Mullins said he does not remember the events leading up to the fall.

The first group of volunteers to arrive on the scene to rescue Mullins consisted of about eight people and the eventual total number of rescuers to aid in the situation was about 30, Moore said.

“After all was said and done there were probably around 30 rescuers in total, as well as fire department, police and paramedics,” he said. “They assessed his injuries, hooked him up to an I.V. and eventually loaded him onto a backboard that we carried him out on.”

The volunteers were from northern Burke County and Avery County, according to WSOC-TV.

Moore said the steep terrain made it difficult for the rescue mission to take place and that the first responders were there by 2:45 p.m., a little more than an hour after the emergency call was made. Rescuers had to carry Mullins half a mile through the woods before an ATV took him another mile down a narrow trail, according to WSOC-TV.

“All of this help came within the hour that the call was placed, which is impressive given the type of rescue this was, as well as this area’s terrain,” said Danielle Giangrasso, a senior psychology major who was one of the students repelling. “I was also very impressed by the way my friends responded in the meantime — it is one thing to keep calm and respond to such a frightening accident, but to have the victim be one of your close friends adds another dimension to the incident.”

Moore said the event was simply a freak accident that cannot really be explained.

“It is really hard to put a story out because no one knows exactly what happened and he is a very competent climber, this was just a freak accident,” he said. “ I just don’t want people to get the idea that some stupid kid was out doing things they had no business doing, because it’s simply not the case.”

Story: Nicole Caporaso, News Reporter