Good Samaritans jump into action, perform CPR after man falls into Gunlock Falls

Jun 5, 2023, 7:13 PM

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah — A man who slipped and fell into Gunlock Falls on Sunday was saved by bystanders who pulled him from the water and performed CPR.

“He was in this area right behind us,” Charley Guthrie, chief of the Gunlock Fire Department, said of the man in his 20s. “He slipped. Hit his head and fell about 14 feet into a pot of water and then was submerged for some time because he was unconscious.”

Guthrie said before the fire and rescue department could arrive, some good Samaritans jumped into action.

“I could see and hear people screaming: ‘Somebody fell. Somebody fell,'” recalled Manuel Papazian, an off-duty police officer from Las Vegas who was vacationing in the area with his family.

Papazian watched as a bystander jumped in after the unconscious man, struggling against the strong current to find him.

“He just starts digging deeper into the water, and he goes under, and he comes up with a body,” he said. “The man gives me the body and puts him on the shore. Dude, I started chest compressions right away.”

Papazian said he was quickly joined by an off-duty firefighter who assisted with CPR.

“We’re giving chest compressions. I get tired. Another gentleman takes over,” Papazian said. “He starts giving chest compressions. Hands him off to me. I continue chest compressions. He starts breathing. I look at him, and I’m just like, ‘Holy smokes, it worked.'”

Other off-duty first responders joined the effort until the local fire department arrived and took over. The man was taken by helicopter to St. George Regional Hospital in critical condition.

Man revived from near drowning at Gunlock Falls

On Monday, Gunlock State Park manager Jon Allred said the man’s condition was improving.

“Sometimes it doesn’t end up this good,” Allred said of the near drowning.

Allred said the man who slipped and fell into the water was fortunate to have so many people who were trained in CPR nearby.

“He was in good hands,” he expressed. “It’s awesome that they were there.”

“It wasn’t just me,” Papazian added. “It wasn’t just the firefighter. It was everybody. Everybody helped out to save this guy.”

Papazian said strong emotions hit him once he left the scene. He encouraged everyone to learn how to perform CPR.

“It was an emotional day,” he said. “I teared up on the walk back to the car. Could have been me there. Could have been me—could have been surrounded by people who didn’t know what to do.”

Chief Guthrie told KSL that when someone’s not breathing that the first four minutes are critical.

“It’s sometimes more than four minutes for us to get our boots on and out of the station,” Guthrie said. “So somebody on scene that can stop that clock and get some blood flow up to the brain and pump the heart for that individual, their chances of survival skyrocket.”

He also warned that the rocks under the rushing water are becoming more slippery as the weather warms.

“We’ve started to develop a layer of moss that’s incredibly slick,” he said. “This is sandstone. It’s called slick rock, but you add that layer of moss on top of it, and it becomes incredibly, incredibly slick.”

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Good Samaritans jump into action, perform CPR after man falls into Gunlock Falls