Sunday, January 25, 2009

Motorist teeters on cliff edge after canyon plunge

A 34-year-old Grand Junction man was rescued on Wednesday from a van teetering off a cliffside about 170 feet above a canyon floor.

Daniel J. Lyons drove his van off a road in the steep, red-rock canyons of Colorado National Monument, and the vehicle dropped, tumbled and rolled 120 feet before getting snagged on brush and a rock ledge.

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"It's jaw-dropping," said Joan Anzelmo, park superintendent. "It got caught on an outcropping of rock; that's what saved his life."

About 50 rescue personnel including park rangers, Grand Junction firefighters, volunteer firefighters and Mesa County sheriff's deputies performed a technical extraction in the dark to rescue Lyons, Anzelmo said.

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He was flown by helicopter to St. Mary's Hospital, where he was in good condition. After the rescue, Lyons told authorities he had accidentally driven off the roadway, Anzelmo said. The incident, however, remains under investigation.

"He feels it was an accident going over the edge of Rim Rock Drive," Anzelmo said. "It has all the signs that he intentionally drove off." There were no brake or skid marks on the roadway, and the tire tracks in dirt off the road ran in a straight line to the edge of the canyon, she said.

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