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Young man survives 100-foot fall, family calls it a miracle

Austin Elder remains in critical condition after falling from Whitaker Point in Newton County, Ark.

December 11, 2012|by Linda Russell, KY3 News | lrussell@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- A family from northwest Arkansas says it is a miracle that their son is alive.  Austin Elder, 19, fell 100 feet from a rocky point in Newton County in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area of the national forest.  It happened early Saturday morning as Austin and a friend were looking at the stars near their campsite.

Austin was still in critical condition at a hospital in Springfield on Tuesday.  He was suffering from head trauma, a punctured lung, and some broken bones. 

His family believes he's still alive for a reason.

"They were out to enjoy nature at one of the most beautiful spots in northwest Arkansas," said Austin’s mom, Gina Rogers.  “I get pictures constantly of sunsets, and that was just one of their passions."

As Elder and his friend gazed at the stars from Whitaker Point, also called Hawksbill Crag, he slipped over the edge, falling 100 feet.

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“There was no phone service, so it took his friend two hours to finally get phone service to where he could call for the emergency crews to come,” Rogers said.

In the 911 call that Elder’s friend was finally able to make, the young man said, “I don't know where he is.  He's unresponsive. I've been screaming.”

Rescue crews had to pull Elder back up the cliff and hike him out to an ambulance.  A police officer notified Austin’s mom. 

“All he could tell me was he in an ambulance, and he was alive, but I knew.  I immediately started screaming and crying,” Rogers said.

They always knew he was tough, but Elder's family believes now, more than ever, that he's a fighter.  Rogers says it was about six hours before her son got to a hospital. 

“That spite, that stubborn, strong willed fighting spirit, is what keeping him, helping him,” she said.

The family also believes a single tree that broke Austin's fall was part of a bigger plan. 

“Let's face it; if you can't believe in a miracle after this, I don't know," said Austin's dad, Danny Elder.

“He's overcome a lot of hurdles, and yes, we have many, many life-threatening hurdles to overcome, but we believe we're going to overcome those, because of all of you out there praying for him and trusting that God has a plan for my son,” Rogers said.

They're filled with hope, and overwhelmed with love.  A Facebook page requesting prayers for Austin has more than 5,000 followers. 

“When hope springs up, people hear about the hope, and the hope explodes, like all the hits, it's all over the world.  A little boy, well, my little boy, who's fallen, and his life is changed for a moment, his life is changing, and he's changing the world,” Elder said.

Austin's family is posting updates on that Facebook page, and asking for continued prayers.  They're also so thankful for the rescuers and the hospital staff who have cared for Austin and who have also been joining them in prayer.

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