What started as a routine camping trip for seven friends last Friday, ended early Saturday morning in a horrific accident for Adam Scalf, a Spring 2009 Tech graduate of the zoology program.The campers stayed up to watch the sun rise at the scenic Window Cliffs near Burgess Falls. Shortly after that, Scalf walked to the edge of the cliff, used the restroom, turned to return to the campsite, and slipped, falling an estimated 100 feet to the bottom.
Scalf, 24, was air lifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. His injuries include a skull fracture, a damaged rotator cuff, a punctured lung, six broken ribs, and damage to his spinal cord. His back was also broken in two places.
“He laid down there bleeding for two hours,” said Albert Scalf, Adam’s father.
He wasn’t down there alone, however. Erik Kenney, long-time friend and Fall 2009 Tech graduate, was the first of the campers on the scene.
“Erik got down there immediately,” said Corey Webb, close friend and Tech alumnus. “Within a minute, he had slid and hopped down 100 feet and was at the bottom with him. I followed and gave him my shirt and bandana to stop the bleeding and a jacket to keep him warm.”
Devin Baerenwald of Nashville; Ashley Frazier, a geology major; Tristan Hill, a mechanical engineering major and Layton McDaniel, a graduate student, were also camping with the group.
“After that Corey came back up and called 911,” Frazier said. “No one else had a phone or was able to tell anyone where we were.”
McDaniel and Hill ran back and forth from the camp site to Scalf with supplies such as water and blankets while Frazier and Baerenwald cleaned up the camp site and watched from above.
“We thought the helicopter couldn’t find us,” Frazier said. “That was one of the hardest parts because we were waiting. We could hear sirens, and we were all just so worried. It felt like no one was coming, but we knew they were trying.”
Scalf was initially unable to feel his legs, but had felt sensations in both by Tuesday. After he first felt his right foot, Scalf asked for another mountain to take on.
“I actually feel real good,” Scalf said. “[My spinal cord] isn’t torn or anything. It’s just bruised. It’s got something like a blood clot in it they hope will go out.”
Bryan Webb, close friend and Tech alumnus said, “I’ve never seen anyone bounce back like he has. No doubt, he is the toughest guy I’ve ever met, and on top of that, one of the best people I’ve ever come across.”
Scalf said, “I think the worst part is that it’s excruciating to eat. I cut my tongue when I chew because my teeth are jagged. I also bit through my lip.”
After spending two nights in the intensive care unit, Scalf was moved to intermediate intensive care.
“Scalf has always said he has an indestructible skull. He wasn’t kidding,” said Dahlia Gilliam, four-year friend and animal science major at Tech. Taking in a slightly more serious tone she continued, “Adam Wayne is our mountain man–he’s always been our hero.”
Frazier summed up the group consensus.
“Scalf is going to come back times three, and it’s going to be super Scalf.