An 11-year-old Sacramento County boy was honored Sunday by the California Highway Patrol for helping to save his father's life after a hiking accident near Lake Berryessa (map).
Jake Pritchard was on a hike in Napa County on Jan. 5 with his 18-year-old brother, Devon, and 41-year-old father, Ryan, when the incident occurred.
As the trio's excursion was coming to an end, Jake told KTXL, his dad put his hand on an unstable rock, fell 50 feet down a cliff and got caught in a tree.
"I remember I was in the tree and this flap of scalp was opened up," Ryan Pritchard said.
Recalled Jake: "At first I thought he was a goner." The youngster's brother had already ascended the cliff to put their gear in their car.
The 11-year-old climbed down to where his father was hanging from the tree. Ryan Pritchard had suffered major memory loss and was unable to remember the fall.
Jake, whose Cub Scout training had helped prepare him for such an emergency, used a cellphone to call 911 as his father moved in and out of consciousness.
The CHP later released an audio recording of the call:
Dispatcher Jennifer Gsell: "911 emergency. What are you reporting?"
Jake: "Um, my dad fell off a cliff. "
Gsell: "What’s the location?"
Jake: "Don’t know."
Gsell: "I need to know where you are."
Jake: "We are in the mountains."
Gsel: "You know what county you’re in or highway you’re near or anything?"
Jake: "I wish I knew."
After the call was dropped several times, the dispatcher saw that the cellphone was pinging from a location somewhere near Yolo and Solano counties.
“She asked me how many shirts I had, and I said two,” Jake said. “She told me to take off one shirt and wave it around, and I did. And then I got the helicopter to fly over us.”
“We kept on hitting the siren and he was able to tell the direction where he was hearing the siren from,”said CHP Capt. Jim Epperson. “And the helicopters were able to move, based on where he was telling them."
The Pritchards were rescued two hours later.
After being airlifted to a hospital, Ryan Pritchard was found to have suffered multiple fractured vertebrae, a bruised and swollen ankle, lacerations on his head that required numerous stitches, and a broken jaw. He underwent several surgeries and was released Thursday.
“I am blessed. [Jake] performed well under pressure, under the stress of the situation," he said of his son. "He kept a cool head and kept calling."
On Sunday, CHP officials gave Jake a tour of the agency's local dispatch center, served a cake in his honor, and gave him a ride in a patrol vehicle.
He is scheduled to become a Boy Scout in March, and has been nominated for the Boy Scouts of America's National Heroism Award, KTXL reported.
“He was so calm and he was the best caller I could have asked for,” Gsell, the dispatcher, said. “I couldn’t have asked for a happier ending. We don’t get a lot of happy endings.”
KTXL's Rina Nakano contributed to this report.