Woman survives broken neck after 200-foot fall in California mountains
(KTLA) – A woman is sharing the story of her survival after tumbling 200 feet down one of Southern California’s tallest mountain peaks.
The terrifying fall left Ruth Woroniecki, 40, from Thornton, Colorado, with a long road to recovery ahead, but she’s thankful she’s getting a second chance at life.
Woroniecki left her family’s campground back on Christmas Eve morning to climb Cucamonga Peak in the San Gabriel Mountains. After reaching the 8,800-foot summit and beginning her descent, Woroniecki slipped on ice and fell approximately 200 feet, where she came to rest on a fallen tree trunk, sustaining serious injuries.
Woroniecki was in the Los Angeles area volunteering at local prisons and administering help to homeless citizens when she decided to embark on the Christmas Eve hike.
An avid hiker, she was prepared for the journey, but on her descent, things became a bit icy.
“The crazy thing is, that is my last memory,” recalled Woroniecki.
Fortunately, a tree trunk stopped her fall. Four hikers eventually found Woroniecki, injured and bleeding, and called for help. Together they waited for San Bernardino Rescue helicopter crews to find them.
Due to severe wind conditions on the mountain, it would take rescue crews another two hours to reach Woroniecki.
Eventually, one rescuer was safely lowered onto the mountain just west of Woroniecki’s location.
“He hiked over to me and then he informed me that we had to hike to another spot about 200 feet away,” recalled Woroniecki.
Despite her injured state, she managed to power through intense pain from her broken neck — risking paralysis — on her arduous hike to safety.
“I was holding my head as I walked along the side of the mountain until they were able to drop the cable and then myself and the rescuer went up together [to the helicopter] in one shot,” said Woroniecki.
The frightening fall left Woroniecki with a number of torn ligaments and tendons in her legs and large gashes on her head, chin and face that required over 40 stitches. She also underwent surgery for a broken neck.
“[The surgeon] put a screw in the upper vertebrae and then a plate and four screws in the lower vertebrae,” said Woroniecki.
Woroniecki, who works as a waitress to earn money so she can travel around the world while helping others, said she’s grateful to the rescuers and doctors who helped save her life.
When she’s fully recovered, Woroniecki plans to travel to South America to continue working to help others.