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North Adams Firefighters Rescue Man From Gorge

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
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Firefighters hold the ladder to aid a North Adams man out of a gorge at Natural Bridge State Park.
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Firefighter Matthew Davis calls down to Taylor Sheldon as he puts on a safety harness.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Firefighters rescued a 21-year-old man Thursday night who became trapped in a gorge at Natural Bridge State Park.

Taylor Sheldon of North Adams had been swimming with friends at the park when the group headed back up toward where their car was parked at the Franklin Street gate. Sheldon, however, climbed up through a waterfall and became separated from the group, said Officer Kyle Cahoon.

The found him nearly an hour later stuck in the dark in the rushing water at the bottom of the 60-foot gorge. He couldn't make his way back down in the dark and couldn't get out from the top.

Firefighter Matthew Davis took the lead in the rescue as a member of the Western Massachusetts Regional Technical Rescue Team. Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the other firefighters were also trained in rope rescue at an operational level.

A harnessed Davis worked his way through the bushes at the top of the gorge down to spot where he could speak to Sheldon as other first-responders watched from the bridge over the chasm.

There was difficulty in communicating with Sheldon over the roar of the water and flashlights were used to help orient him toward Davis.

"Down in gorge, it's not conducive to sound to begin with plus the water, it amplifies and echoes in there," said Sgt. James Burdick.

Two cruisers were turned to put headlights on the area so the rescue team could see to gear up. Sheldon was dropped a harness to put on to aid in the rescue and a ladder was lowered down to him.

"You want to pick the safest way to pull him out of there and it really was by ladder," Meranti said. "You lower the ladder down and let him climb up ... if he was unconscious or anything like that we would have put him in a Stokes basket and use a really intricate hauling system get him out of there."

Sheldon was alert and conscious able to climb up the ladder. But he was chilled from standing in the water for nearly two hours.

He was, however, released to family after being checked out by emergency medical technicians.

"It worked great with the police officers here, the ambulance EMTs were right in with us," said Meranti. "Everybody worked well together."

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