A Day at the Salt River


Submitted By Steve Horath

Cliff diving accident

Two young men decided to jump from a cliff at the Salt River. One man lived and one man died. Which one will you be?

MichaelDugal was a promising 20 year old ASU student from Lafayette,Louisiana. On August 18, 2003 I took him with me to the Salt River.Like most people who go to the river, we were having a blast; drinking,getting a tan, and goofing around while tubing down the river. Afterabout 3 hours we came to an enormous mountain with a hole cut into it,about 20 feet up. If you have been to the Salt River, you know what Iam talking about; it is very common to see people climb the mountainand jump from the hole in mountain it to the water.

The dayMichael and I went there were already 2 young men above the hole in themountain, about 70 feet from the water. A crowd had gathered and peoplewere yelling, “Don’t jump!”, “Come down!”, and “I’ll pay you $20 tocome down!”. From the place where the men were, it was a steep climb upabout 10 feet to safely climb back down the mountain. Michael, being anice guy, and an Army Reserve told me he was going to climb up to wherethe men were, and help them climb up to safety. In minutes he was tothe top, helping the men. One of the two climbed back down the water.

Michaeland a 17 year old complete stranger, named Austin stood on a ledgetogether, small rocks falling from under them, and had a conversationfor at least 5 minutes while the crowd continued to plead with the mento come down. They pointed to places in the water from up above, andallegedly Michael was telling Austin he has jumped from high placessimilar to where they were standing in his Army training.

Secondslater they jump off the cliff together, while I capture it on video.Austin comes up from under water unhurt; Michael does not come to thesurface. Austin then dives for him as a group of witnesses hurry topull his lifeless body to the surface. I help carry him to shore.

Michaelis badly and visibly bruised on his neck and chest. He is unconscious,but breathing and coughing up blood and lake water. We lay him on hisback and think he has a pulse. I am talking to him, standing by in casehe needs CPR. Blood and brown and black chunks of things from the lakeare coming out of his mouth and nose. Myself and another woman turn himon his side to prevent him from choking on his own blood.

Suddenlyhis chest stops moving and I started CPR with another woman. Witnesseswho were further down the river called for help while I gave my dyingroommate CPR. It was very hard to stomach giving him CPR; as I waspushing air into his lungs, other things from the lake would come backinto my mouth. We administered CPR for twenty to twenty-five minutesbefore help arrived; for a good 10 minutes we could not feel a pulse,but continued. I had only a short break before the man who tried tohelp with the breathing could not take it anymore.

Help finallyarrived. Michael was taken in a helicopter. The police watched my videotape and gathered information from those involved. If Michael was dead,the paramedics would not tell me, and instead told me to go to thehospital. He was pronounced dead upon arrival to the hospital.

Iwas told that even if a full medical staff and equipment was on shore,that he still could not have been saved. His body just shut down onceit hit the water. The cause of death was drowning. He did not have onebroken bone in his body. In the video you can see that Austin landedfeet first and Michael landed more on his rib cage.

In aninstant, one bad decision was made and now Michael is dead. He leaveshis two parents, 18 year old sister, 16 year old brother, hisgirlfriend, his family, his friends and me, his roommate to cope withlosing such a young life in such a tragic way. It did not need tohappen this way.

Labor Day weekend is this weekend and The SaltRiver will be packed. People will be jumping from cliffs. I watchedsomeone die after jumping. This is not the first death at the SaltRiver cliff diving. I urge you to make people aware of how dangerous itreally is and do not risk your life for such a small thrill.

Reproduced with permission from: Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office