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Published on May 28, 2024
Teen Miraculously Survives 400-Foot Fall Near Mason County's High Steel Bridge, Prompting Safety PleasSource: Facebook / Mason County Sheriff's Office

A teenager's perilous plunge near the High Steel Bridge in Mason County ended with a fortunate twist over Memorial Day weekend when a 19-year-old man survived a nearly 400-foot fall. Rescuers extracted the young man with minor injuries after he tumbled down the canyon side, according to FOX 13 Seattle. In an interview with KING 5, Ryan Welander of the Mason County Sheriff's Office characterized the terrain as "extremely dangerous" and said that this was not an isolated incident—the area claims numerous lives annually due to its deceptively steep drops.

The incident has renewed warnings about the treacherous nature of the region; the survivor had been walking a washout mistaken for a trail, and despite scattered warning signs cautioning the public, others have not been as lucky, "We get a lot of practice hauling dead bodies out of here," Welander stated, revealing that for every survivor they find, about 20 do not make it, and nearly three to five rescue operations are launched each year, depending on the year. A stark reminder of the dangers posed to both wanderers and rescuers alike came from Corporal Tim Ripp of the Mason County Sheriff's Office, who suffered a long-term injury in August of 2020 during a body recovery mission; a boulder struck another deputy, nearly sending him off a cliff, and Ripp was injured while stopping his fall, leading to an 18-month recovery, "Don't go off trail," Ripp warned, with the recollection of his own near-death experience and his lengthy rehabilitation, he stresses the value of heeding the posted guidelines.

Built by the Simpson Logging Company in 1929, the High Steel Bridge stands as the tallest railroad bridge ever erected in the U.S., now serving as a roadway and tourist draw for its vertigo-inducing views, as detailed by the MyNorthwest. However, the Washington Trails Association has marked the descent trail into the canyon as closed due to danger, a measure that underscores the potential hazards of the scenic locale.

As adventurers continue to underestimate the risks, Mason County authorities urge the public to respect the power of natural landscapes and to adhere to safety signs, hopeful that this latest near-miss serves as a cautionary tale rather than a precursor to future tragedies—stressing that wanderlust should never trump personal safety, nor should it endanger the brave rescuers who face their own peril in saving others.