Quick acts save woman's life at falls

FALLS CITY -- When Falls City firefighter K.C. Wagner saw Tiffany Formosa floating in the water near the falls in Falls City on Sunday, Sept. 11, he didn't think about what to do.



FALLS CITY -- When Falls City firefighter K.C. Wagner saw Tiffany Formosa floating in the water near the falls in Falls City on Sunday, Sept. 11, he didn't think about what to do.

"I saw her laying face down in the water," Wagner recalled. "I jumped and swam over to her."

Formosa, who turns 30 today (Wednesday, Sept. 28), was spending time with her boyfriend at the falls. She had struck a rock ledge after attempting to jump from a cliff above a pool of water and was severely injured.

"She was actually trying to jump, but she just took a step off (the cliff)," Wagner said. "She didn't get far enough out."

She landed on the ledge in a seated position and then tumbled into the water.

Wagner was at the falls that Sunday and noticed a group of people running over to the area where she fell. He followed to see what was going on and that's when he jumped in. Formosa's boyfriend called 9-1-1, but Wagner knew she would need help immediately.

Wagner said she told him that she couldn't feel her legs and eventually started losing strength as she clung to a rock in the 15-foot pool of water.

"She started to lose her grip and was closing her eyes," Wagner said.

Wagner stayed in the chilly water the entire time, holding her head out of the water when she couldn't any longer.

That day -- that jump -- may have forever changed Formosa's life.

Formosa's mother, Pam Crabtree, said her daughter told her the cliff she was jumping from was high and intimidating.

"She got ready to jump and was a little afraid," Crabtree said. "She may have hesitated and (that) made her not clear the rock."

Formosa's boyfriend swam out to her and together with Wagner tried to keep her alert until emergency crews were able to reach her.

Wagner said Falls City firefighters arrived at the scene within minutes, but because of where Formosa landed, the rescue was complicated. On both sides were steep cliff walls and Wagner said it was risky to take Formosa to shore.

"We couldn't move her," Wagner said. "I pretty much knew not to move her around too much."

To retrieve her from the water, rescuers had to string lines from one side of the falls to the other and lower a basket to the water. More rescue workers jumped in the water to help place Formosa on a backboard and into the rescue basket, which was then pulled to shore.

In all, 20 emergency responders from Falls City, Dallas and Polk Fire No. 1 were part of the rescue. Formosa was flown to Oregon Health & Science University from the scene, where she has been since.

Wagner, who remained with Formosa throughout the entire rescue, was taken to West Valley Hospital in Dallas and treated for hypothermia.

Crabtree said her daughter is thankful for the rescue crew, especially for Wagner.

"She just said that he was so reassuring and felt she was in wonderful hands," Crabtree said. "We just want to thank him."

Crabtree said her daughter has a long road to recovery ahead of her, but seems to be making progress. She was given welcome good news last week after a second surgery.

"Before her back surgery, doctors said that she wouldn't walk again," Crabtree said. "After the surgery, they said there could be just a small glimmer of hope that she could someday."

Formosa had been living in Corvallis and attending Linn-Benton Community College. After being released from the hospital, she will return with her parents to the Eugene area, where she will likely spend time in a skilled nursing home in rehabilitation.

Throughout the entire ordeal, Formosa has remained positive, Crabtree said.

"She's been a trooper and in wonderful spirits," Crabtree said.



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