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Father of fallen hiker after rescue: 'We just thank God'

By Liz Kilmer, Reporter, LKilmer@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 07 2014 04:36:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 07 2014 05:26:35 PM CDT

The family of a hiker who fell nearly 40 feet from a cliff are thanking the many rescuers who helped save his life.

ALBANY TWP., Pa. -

A hiker is lucky to be alive after falling off of the Pinnacle in Albany Township late last week.

James Gagliardi, 25, of Kansas City, Missouri, was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he fell about 40 feet onto a ledge and continued to roll another 200 feet down the mountain, officials said.

"He doesn't even remember, doesn't even remember it happening. He just knew he was there at that spot, was going to camp there for the night and he just has no recollection," said the victim's father, Jamie Gagliardi, who traveled from Kansas City to be with his son, now recovering at Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown.

He said the young hiker suffered a spinal fracture, rib fracture, laceration on his spleen and concussion. He was in the ICU for two days and is now stable.

"When I got the call and when we heard about it, I was pretty scared," said Gagliardi. "We're just glad he's safe and alive."

Gagliardi told 69 News that nearby hikers witnessed his son's fall around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, July 4, and called 911. In response, about 50 rescue workers were called to the scene, from departments across both Berks and Lehigh counties.

"This was serious," said Assistant Chief Matt Brett, Kempton Fire Company, who was the first to make contact with Gagliardi around 9:50 p.m., after traveling up the mountain in a specialized ATV.

"We drive approximately five miles up into the Pinnacle from where we park and then we walk about a half-mile with the equipment," said Brett. "We took thermal protection, we took extra lighting, carrying generators, probably 10 to 15 bags of rope equipment or extraction gear. It takes a lot of manpower."

"It's extremely important that we have people that come together for a common cause to help people. It takes a whole team, not just one person's effort," said Chief Ethan Kunkel, Kempton Fire Company.

In addition to the Kempton Fire Company, officials said the following fire companies also responded: Virginville, Hamburg (Fire and EMS), Topton, Lynnport, New Tripoli, and the Lehigh County Technical Rescue Team.

"The fact that he had people working there to get him out of there is just amazing. We just thank God," said Gagliardi.

Gagliardi said his son recently hit the 1,200-mile mark on the Appalachian Trail. He started hiking in Georgia in April and planned to complete the entire trail.