SANDY, Ore. (KOIN) — Bill Crane Jr. got a laugh on Thursday when he said, “I’m wondering if anyone’s wondering what I’m thankful for” this Thanksgiving.
The 51-year-old was on a 3-day bicycle trip. He stopped in a remote area above the Sandy River to camp for the night — but doesn’t remember exactly how he fell 40 feet onto the rocks below.
Four months after the accident, Crane met the people who saved his life.
“I have to say I’ve never been so scared in all my life, that night alone on the rocks not knowing if i was going to make it,” Crane said. “Not knowing if I was going to embrace my family.”
He was disoriented, badly injured and couldn’t move.
But early the next morning, July 16, a fisherman found him and got help.
“I know he wants to remain anonymous, but Happy Thanksgiving to you, Jeff, and thanks for doing the right thing and getting in contact with these people.”
“These people” were rescue teams from multiple agencies. Weather conditions ruled out a rescue by LifeFlight.
So the emergency responders, including Sandy Fire District, built a rope system to rescue Crane.
One of the rescuers, firefighter/paramedic Eric Pedersen, said the fisherman led them to where Crane was. Pedersen said he wasn’t sure what he’d find.
“You hear of somebody falling that distance off a cliff onto rock, I can tell you, personally, I was more than pleased when you started answering questions,” he said Thursday.
A crew of rescuers hoisted him up the cliff on a stretcher, taking care not to exacerbate his already significant injuries: a broken pelvis, a broken back, broken ribs and a head injury.
“I wouldn’t be here unless it was for these brave young men and women that risked their lives to come down to a very remote section, challenging section of the Sandy River where I was camping,” Crane said.
As Thanksgiving approaches Crane said he has much for which to be thankful. The US Navy Gulf War veteran said next Monday is his 29th anniversary with his wife, Jane, who was at the event Thursday with their son, Shawn.
“I’m so appreciative to be alive and walking, and I will get a full recovery,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s going to take a year or longer but I’ll get there. And I’ll be a stronger, better person with a new lease on life, with a whole different perspective on really cherishing each day.”
He also had special words for those who came to the Sandy River that morning in July.
“The extension of gratitude and pure thankfulness to you guys in public service — amazing! Amazing what you guys did.”