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02-20-2012, 10:54 PM #1Two iPhones survive lightning and landslide, save the day
On February 10, 2012, on my fiancée's birthday, I treated her to a trip to Sydney. We live in Brisbane, Queensland. Later, this trip which started out happily would turn into a nightmare. We were two of the victims of the tragedy reported here:
Lucky escape: four rescued after landslide and lightning strike | smh.com.au
This is where it happened:
The Three Sisters - 3 Sisters Echo Point Katoomba - Blue Mountains Australia
Lightning hit a man who was on the bridge going to the first sister (leftmost in the photo). Cherry and I were directly below. But contrary to news reports, we believe we were also hit by lightning, albeit indirectly. It hit the railing, which conducted a crazy amount of voltage to our bodies. We were knocked down. Cherry saw me fall on my knees like a limp rag. Her hand was momentarily stuck to the railing. We have burn marks on our hands, hers being bigger. She saw smoke.
The first thing I remember was a very bright spark accompanied by probably the loudest sound I ever heard, like a bomb blast right at our ears. It's a miracle we didn't lose our hearing. And it was without doubt an electrical jolt perhaps hundreds of thousands of volts.
The metal handrail came off their bearings and without them, we could fall off the mountainside trail down potentially 10-20 meters to the forest floor. In fact Cherry couldn't see me, panicked and screamed my name thinking I had fallen into the ravine. I didn't. I was only three meters from her, but the debris gave her no visual of me.
Things started falling down on us: branches from trees, small rocks, sand, mud. After the lightning, the rain poured.
For maybe 5-10 seconds we were both paralyzed. Eventually I was able to move, except for my entire left arm (sensation eventually returned after 3-4 minutes).
I found Cherry hysterical, terrified and crying. Her left hand looked almost severed. Only the skin seemed to hold it on to her arm. It was bleeding.
I felt some pain on my head and left foot. I would later find out my head was bleeding and that I broke my foot.
A man was also bushwalking behind us when all this happened. Uninjured, he wanted to help Cherry, but seeing her condition, we decided it was best not to touch her. He went to get help instead.
I tried to find my iPhone 4S which was in the back pocket of my shorts. At first I didn't find it. Cherry's iPhone 4 was dry in a pouch so I used it to call 000 (same as 911 in N. America). I described to the emergency operator our position and the extent of our injuries. With the rain pouring, eventually the phone got soaked and the operator's voice faded. Desperate, I frantically tried to find my iPhone 4S. It was almost entirely buried in mud. To my surprise, it was still working. I then re-established communication with emergency.
Cherry panicked at first. But she saw our kids' faces and heard my voice telling her to calm down and be brave and strong. I made her promise. She said this encouragement stuck with her all night.
In about 20 minutes, a New South Wales police officer and a paramedic arrived on the scene. By this time, Cherry was shaking uncontrollably from the cold. The paramedic would later radio, "The female subject is nearing hypothermic." Within the next couple of hours, up to a dozen more paramedics would come. We were given blankets, bandaged and encouraged. Meanwhile, they reviewed how the rescue was to be carried out.
It would be difficult. We were down 640 steps of a 900-step descent down a mountainside toward the rainforest floor. The path is only about a meter wide, steep and winding. I got out by walking the 640 steps back to near ground level where I was put on a gurney then wheeled into a waiting ambulance.
Cherry was airlifted by a helicopter. It was frightening of course. She just closed her eyes. And as she was being hoisted, the chopper blades fanned more air toward her which got her even colder. But she said as soon as she was inside the chopper, it was nice and warm.
We were taken to two different hospitals. I suffered a broken bone on my left foot, multiple bruises and lacerations on my head but was released after one day. I walk on crutches for now but I'm pain-free. Cherry had compound fractures on her left hand and had had two surgeries on it, the last one re-attaching the wrist to her arm.
Cherry and I thank our heroes:
Our iPhones. Somehow, having been buried in mud, soaking wet and even smashed (that's what the S stands for on my 4S now), they worked long enough to serve as our lifeline. Cherry's iPhone is back 100% operational and mine is about 90%.
The guy behind us on the trail. He assured us he was gonna get help. Without you, help might not have arrived as timely as it did.
The rescue team. You are all aahmazing. Little wonder in the list of occupations people trust and love the most you're always high up on the list. One paramedic in particular, while I was waiting to be brought out and shivering uncontrollably from the cold, sat on my right, put my hands under two layers of blanket, held them with his right hand, and wrapped his left arm around me. Another then sat on my left, squeezed me in to sandwich me between them. My shaking lessened shortly after. These were the same two men who assisted me climb back up. One put a rope around my waist and pulled me up and the other pushed me up and gave me water on the frequent breaks I took. Both were my cheering squad, constantly encouraging me, saying I was amazingly fit, that I was doing an awesome job and that I put their conditioning to shame.
Nick Campbell, the cop who was the first on the scene. He gave Cherry his blanket, assured her she was gonna be alright and that we'd be out of there soon. It would take close to three hours I think before we were brought out of the disaster area but the rescuers' encouragement and assurances boosted our resolve to get out of there alive.
Hospital staff, particularly in the ER. These people showed a tremendous amount of compassion, patience and professionalism. You are true saviours.
Our church family, West Ryde Baptist Church. The leaders and members provided transportation, accommodation and a lot of TLC.
Last but most importantly, we thank God. When 'bad' things happen, somehow He gives assurance that He will see us through. There were enough little miracles during our ordeal that make Cherry and I believe that somehow we were not alone.
Cherry and Todd, about five minutes before the lightning struck.