Last month, a Florida teen tumbled 60 feet down a waterfall face in North Carolina, but was saved by strangers. In the weeks following, the teen’s mother made it her mission to track down those who helped save her son — and she finally found one she’s been looking for.
Although Paul Cleaver from Lake County, Florida, was hundreds of miles from home hiking the Upper Catawba falls when he fell August 3, one of the men who helped him, later identified as Chris Kincaid, hits closer to home than anyone might have ever thought. The two had met before the accident occurred and found they were both from the same county.
According to the blog about updating family and friends of Cleaver’s status, in the accident the track and cross country runner landed on his feet, shattering his heels, breaking bones in his left foot and injuring his L5 and L3 vertebrae.
A first responder on the scene later contacted Cleaver’s mother, Terri, describing the terrifying scene. Here’s some of what he wrote:
I had been relaxing and having a personal Zen moment looking at the falls, listening to the sound of the water, paying attention to how beautiful the water was as it falls when all of a sudden I see a young guy falling. He was running in the air as he fell. By some miracle he cleared the huge bolder guarding the bottom half of the falls, he hit the water in only about two feet of water with a rock bottom. As he hit the water, a sound I will not soon forget, I saw his face peek above the water and then disappear. His mangled feet peeked out of the water and he began to sink. Once again his face came up and I could see the fear in his eyes.
Kincaid, a paramedic on vacation at the time, described hearing Cleaver’s splash when he landed in the shallow water.
“We heard a loud splash. That’s when we realized what had happened. My first instinct was fear,” Kincaid told the WKMG-TV. “There was definitely a threat of hypothermia and we wanted to make sure he didn’t go into shock.”
“It just happened so quick. I remember hitting the ground,” Cleaver told the local station. “I was in God’s hands and there was nothing I could do.”
After an hour and a half, EMS crews arrived to take Cleaver to the hospital.
Cleaver is back home after the accident, recovering from surgeries, but his mother felt she still had to find one of the heroes who helped her son.
“Heroes never want to consider themselves a hero, but he’s a hero to us,” Terri said, according to the WKMG.
On the blog, she posted a request for help finding this man and included what she thought they about him at the time:
- His name is John
- They may live in Astor
- His two daughters attend Umatilla High School
- He is a volunteer firefighter
- They were on vacation in the Asheville, NC area on August 3, 2013 and were at Catawba Falls
- In the photo John is the only face captured by the camera
Terri’s request was shared on Facebook and on other blogs, and eventually the man we now know as Chris Kincaid was identified.
“Paul and I were able to call the father and had about a 25 minute conversation. I think we totally took him by surprise! We shared with him the extent of our search and how much we appreciated his actions that day; his willingness to jump right in and help Paul until emergency personnel arrived,” Terri wrote in the blog post. “He told us how much the events of the day had impacted him and his family. We were so touched by his words and thankful to the Lord for helping us find them. We hope for an opportunity to meet this family face-to-face one day.”
Kincaid told WKMG he doesn’t consider himself a hero but said knowing that he helped Cleaver “makes me feel great.”
Watch WKMG’s report:
Although recovery is expected to be a long road, Terri wrote on the blog that she believes her son, who is currently wheelchair-bound, will walk and run again.
This story has been updated to correct an error.