GLOUCESTER – A 35-year-old man trying to swing into the water of one of Gloucester's quarries was seriously injured when the rope snapped, sending him crashing down on the rocks below.
The man was transported by Med Flight to a Boston hospital Saturday. His condition was unknown Sunday.
The man, whose name and hometown could not be confirmed by local emergency personnel Sunday, had to be carried up the rocks of the quarry known as Vernon's Pit, located near Plum Cove School. He was then transported by a Police Department utility vehicle to a nearby field so he could be flown to Tufts Medical Center.
Police and firefighters responded to the quarry at 10:36 a.m. on a report that a man had fallen down the rocks. Fire Chief Eric Smith said the gruelling rescue effort took some 30 to 40 minutes before the man could be brought to the helicopter landing area.
Smith and police Chief Edward Conley both said the man was only "semi-conscious" when he was hauled up the rocks and transported. They said the man had been with a few other people when he fell.
Smith noted that a language barrier made it difficult for police and fire emergency crews to obtain information from those at the scene. Police said an initial investigation revealed the man had been using the rope swing to get out over the water in the quarry when it broke, causing him to fall down the rocks.
"Our police officers and firefighters worked tirelessly to transport this individual to a safe location," Smith said. "Walking down those rocks, especially while transporting an injured person, was challenging and required perseverance and teamwork from each of them.
"Between the terrain — the rocks and the hills — combined with the temperatures (and humidity)," Deputy Fire Chief Thomas LoGrande added Sunday, "they gave the guy the best possible chance."
Conley said the incident spotlights the hazards of people swimming in Gloucester's northern quarries. Despite being off-limits to any swimming, the quarries have long been a gathering place for people — many of them teens and young adults — to cool off in the water and party. Neither Conley nor Smith could say whether alcohol was involved in Saturday's incident.
"People should not be swimming in quarries, period, anywhere," Conley said Sunday. "There is debris under the water, there are no lifeguards. It's not safe. The city does not maintain these areas for swimming, and anyone who does go swimming in the quarries is taking on a big risk."
Much of the area around the quarries is posted by the city with "No trespassing" signs, though officials Sunday could not confirm whether such signs were in the area where the man fell.
Conley said police will be boosting patrols of the quarries and surrounding streets in the days ahead with both cruisers and utility vehicles, now that warmer weather is more apt to draw visitors to the illegal and potentially dangerous swimming holes. He also noted that, as Saturday's incident showed, not all of the swimmers are youths.
"We had a report of a woman swimming laps in a quarry up there last week," Conley noted. "People need to be aware that the city does not allow swimming up there — at all."
Andrea Holbrook contributed to this story by Ray Lamont, who can be reached at 978-675-2705, or firstname.lastname@example.org.