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Austin Elders, 19, of Fort Smith survives fall from Whitaker Point early Saturday morning

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Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2012 2:25 pm | Updated: 11:43 am, Mon Dec 10, 2012.

Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape said a young man from Fort Smith fell from Whitaker Point early Saturday morning, and it was the first such instance that Slape has worked in which the victim lived.
Slape said Austin Elders, 19, of Fort Smith survived the 100-foot fall Saturday.
Slape explained that two young Fort Smith college students -- one who attends the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith, the other who attends the University of Denver -- had been to Whitaker Point in May and wanted to return this fall.
They were camping near Whitaker Point, often called Hawksbill Crag, and decided to go down to the crag to look at the stars about 2:30 or 3 a.m. Saturday, Slape said.
Elders stepped to the side of the crag to relieve himself and the other youth suddenly heard a scream and crashing sounds, Slape said.
The other youth ran for help, looking for cell phone service. He was able to find a spot with some cell service and called the Newton County Sheriff's Office just before 4 a.m. Saturday. Slape said the youth was only able to get out five words, and the only words audible at the sheriff's office were "Hawksbill Crag."
The youth found his way back to their campsite and was able to call the sheriff's office about 5 a.m. Slape said the Buffalo National River's High-Angle Rescue Team was notified, along with the U.S. Forest Service, Buffalo Search and Rescue, Newton County Search and Rescue, volunteer fire departments and North Arkansas Regional Medical Center.
Slape said some rescuers rappelled down the bluff and others walked in. They found the victim about 100 feet down from the crag. He was unresponsive, but was breathing and had a pulse.
Slape said Elders hit some smaller trees and broke branches on the way down, which was in part the reason for his survival.
Elders was loaded into a Stokes basket and raised up the bluff, where an NARMC crew was able to get him out of the forest and to the hospital for treatment.
Elders' condition was unavailable Sunday evening, but Slape said he was seriously injured.
"I'd definitely say he's critical," Slape said.

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