Motorcyclist survives 150-foot fall, credits Apple Watch for helping save his life

Apr 7, 2023, 8:36 AM

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah — Eric Tunbridge was at the bottom of a gorge in southern Utah’s Warner Valley, with zero cell service. He had a brain injury, torn meniscus and ACL, broken ribs, two broken wrists, and a collapsed lung, causing him to lose oxygen.

Tunbridge had fallen more than 150 feet off a cliff while motorcycling in St. George, east of the airport near the Utah-Arizona border.

His friend was trying to make the massive hike down to help him, but in the meantime, Tunbridge’s Apple Watch had already notified authorities using a satellite connection.

“If I wouldn’t have had the SOS feature on my phone through Apple, I probably would have died on the hillside because my lung collapsed and I was suffocating,” Tunbridge said. “It was an automatic response. My Apple Watch recognized my crash and gave emergency responders my exact location.”

(Washington County Sheriff's Office) (Washington County Sheriff's Office) (Washington County Sheriff's Office) (Photo courtesy: Eric Tunbridge) (Photo courtesy: Eric Tunbridge) (Photo courtesy: Eric Tunbridge) (Photo courtesy: Eric Tunbridge) (Photo courtesy: Eric Tunbridge)

Tunbridge is a father to two daughters, ages 11 and 14. He told KSL TV he has biked that trail hundreds of times.

“There are a few areas on this 7-mile stretch where your dirtbike is right up against the edge of the cliff. I don’t remember much leading up to the fall. I tried to put my foot down and there was nothing there; the bike just tipped over. I went down with it,” Tunbridge said.

Sergeants with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Tunbridge fell 60 feet and hit a ledge on Feb. 4. Rescue crews said Tunbridge then rolled and plunged 100 more feet down below.

Tunbridge’s Apple Watch called local 911 responders. When he did not respond to their request, dispatchers sent crews immediately. The Hurricane Valley Fire Department and LifeFlight and Utah Department of Public Safety helicopters responded. The rescue took four hours due to the heavy terrain.

Tunbridge was transported to Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital in critical condition. He remained in the neuro rehabilitation hospital for two weeks to treat his traumatic brain injury.

“I couldn’t do simple math, remember words, or even walk for the first few days,” Tunbridge said.

Doctors said he is expected to make a full recovery.

Experts said Tunbridge did a lot of things right — he went motorcycling with a friend and wore the proper safety equipment.

“I have been riding for five years. I have always promised my wife I would invest in quality body gear and certified helmets. I always wear the gear — no matter how long it takes to put on. I believe it’s the reason I don’t have a spinal injury. And the miracle is that I am still here — I owe that to my Apple Watch.”

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Motorcyclist survives 150-foot fall, credits Apple Watch for helping save his life