EXCLUSIVE: Father Talks About His Daughter’s Fall As She Lays In A Coma

Apr 22, 2019, 7:15 PM | Updated: 9:46 pm

MURRAY, Utah — There are few words adequate to describe the pain that a father felt on Monday, watching his young daughter lay in a coma after a fall down a rock wall in Wasatch State Park.

“Hardest thing in my life,” Jesse Riley said. “Without a doubt.”

Weeks away from her Wasatch High School graduation and just hours before senior prom, 18 year old Avery Tanner was rappelling with her prom group down Elephant Rock on Saturday.

Riley said Avery didn’t have much experience, but there were some experienced climbers in the group who “set the belay line, double checked everything… She started going slow and easy and they were all kind of coaching her on what to do.”

Everything seemed okay initially but then “next thing they knew she was falling.”

Riley fell 20 to 25 feet, hitting the wall at least twice before her alert belayer broke her fall.

“He was able to catch her and keep her from hitting the ground at the bottom,” Riley said on Monday. “I feel like as a family we’ve been through hard things and nothing compares to the last two days.”

Avery’s friends quickly jumped into action “stabilizing her neck and securing her airway” and then “immediately calling 911,” said Michael Sovine, who was among the first to respond. “The kids involved were very prepared. They did everything right once the accident occurred.”

Riley said Avery’s friends later inspected the equipment, but couldn’t find anything wrong with the knot or rope.

“They think that she started rappelling herself that she might have pinched herself in the belay device and then it caused her to panic and she let go of the rope,” he said.

Medics flew Avery to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, where her parents met her. She was in a coma, with a fractured skull.

“We just have to give her time to decide when she wants to come out of it,” Riley said.

Riley said some of the friends who were with her that day felt guilty so he and his wife met with them at the hospital.

“There was a lot of love in that room,” Riley said. “We wanted to reassure those kids that bad things happen and it was no one’s fault. We wanted them to be at peace.”

It’s the sort of peace that has come to Avery’s parents, as Wasatch High School students and members of the Heber community have offered an outpouring of love and support, including starting and contributing to a GoFundMe page* for Avery.

Riley has no doubt the road ahead will be painful for both them and their daughter, but “the thing I keep focusing on is…[The doctors are] talking about there being a long road whereas before we thought it was a dead end. So, we’ll take any road.”

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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EXCLUSIVE: Father Talks About His Daughter’s Fall As She Lays In A Coma