Critically injured woman rescued after Jeep plunges 1,000 feet off cliff

WILKESON, Wash. -- Authorities were able to rescue a critically injured woman who had been in a Jeep that plunged about 1,000 feet off a cliff on the 520 Trail near the Evans Creek Campground in Pierce County, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said Monday.

The male driver of the Jeep did not survive.

The sheriff's department said deputies received a call at about 5 p.m. on Saturday that a Jeep had gone over a steep cliff and that a man and woman had been in the vehicle.

Deputies were directed to the 520 Trail, where they had to park and hike about 1/4-mile up the trail that could only be navigated by  off-road 4X4 vehicles.  The deputies then slid about 250 feet down the cliff, where they found the female crash victim and several good Samaritans who had climbed down to provide aid and comfort, the department said.

"The woman was conscious but suffering from critical injuries, and was covered in coats and blankets provided by the witnesses. Deputies slid another 300 feet down the cliff, where they located the badly damaged jeep and the male driver, who was deceased," the department said in a news release.

"A full-scale response was called out," the department said, including the county's Search and Rescue Team, medics from East Pierce Fire, volunteers on ATVs, Tacoma mountain rescue volunteers, an air helicopter from Airlift Northwest and several park rangers.

Two medics and two rope rescue tech deputies traversed over the cliff and down to the injured woman. They put a splint on her leg, put in her in a litter and she was pulled up with a rope system. At nearly 11:30 p.m., she was airlifted to Seattle's Harborview medical Center -- nearly 7 hours after the crash.

Deputies remained at the scene and rescue crews returned in the morning to recover the body of the driver.

"Our Search & Rescue coordinators expressed their gratitude to all of the citizens, volunteers, and first responders who worked together to save the female passenger’s life," the department said. "It was a long and difficult rescue and recovery - truly an outstanding team effort!"