A Northern Bay rescue
Bruised and sore following harrowing fall over cliff in Northern Bay
Volunteer firefighters and a local fisherman successfully rescued a young woman from Mount Pearl after she survived a fall over a seaside cliff in Northern Bay late one night during the Labour Day weekend. It was an amazing tale of determination and compassion on the part of rescuers, and a brush with death that Megan Kendell won’t soon forget.
A midnight visit to a beach at Northern Bay by a half-dozen young adults turned into a neartragedy for a 20-year-old woman from Mount Pearl over the Labour Day long weekend, and her parents can’t say enough about what they describe as an incredible response from emergency personnel and private citizens.
What’s more, the incident again raised questions about inadequate cellphone services on the north shore of Conception Bay.
Megan Kendell and a handful of other friends decided to walk to the beach at Isaac’s Cove — referred to locally as “Icy” Cove — at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31. The beach is located at the base of a steep cliff, which is characteristic of the entire shoreline along most of the north shore.
As they approached, Megan slipped in the wet grass and tumbled down the face of what appears to be a 15-metre, or 50-foot cliff. Earlier reports put the drop at 80 feet.
Her fall set in motion a series of events that — against great odds — ended with her successful rescue.
After seeing their friend disappear over the cliff, and their phones unable to pick up any signal, Megan’s friends ran to nearby homes, desparate to get the word out to emergency responders.
In short order, volunteers with the North Shore Regional Fire Department, RCMP and medical responders were on the scene.
It was quickly ascertained that Megan had survived the fall, and was trapped on the rocky beach below, suffering from unknown injuries.
It was decided a rescue from the sea was the best option, and a call went out to Gull Island fisherman Dale Pike. Having just turned in for the night with plans to head for the fishing grounds bright and early Sunday morning, Pike lept from his bed, hopped aboard his pickup and raced to nearby Ochre Pit Cove, where his 25-foot boat was docked.
Joining him were Fire Chief Roger Gillingham and firefighter Darren Cull. They pulled a small rowboat onto the deck, and opened the throttle for Isaac’s Cove.
They arrived about 15 minutes later to a shoreline brimming with lights and activity, and quickly deployed the smaller boat. Gillingham and Cull rowed the short distance to shore, assessed Megan’s condition, and decided it was safe to load her into the small boat. Cull rowed her back to the larger boat, and gently placed Megan into Pike’s vessel.
“She was pretty banged up,” said Pike. “We told her how lucky she was.”
Cull then went back to shore and picked up the fire chief, and they made the return trip to Ochre Pit Cove, where an ambulance and several of Megan’s panic-stricken friends were waiting.
She was transported to Carbonear General Hospital, where she underwent a series of tests and medical treatments, and was released into the care of her parents, Mike and Susan Kendell, later Sunday morning.
Miraculously, her injuries were not serious, though by Tuesday morning she could only “shuffle around the house,” said Mike Kendell, her father, adding that it appears Megan’s hips took the brunt of the trauma as she fell down the cliff.
It’s believed that Megan was on the beach for about 90 minutes before rescue arrived, and several factors worked in her favour, say rescuers.
I have worked with the Coast Guard for almost 23 years, and those people are the best people. They know
— Mike Kendell
First of all, it appears she tumbled down the cliff, as opposed to a free-fall that may have had deadly consequences. Secondly, the tide was low and the ocean was calm, meaning she did not plunge into the water, thereby delaying the onset of hypothermia or the risk of drowning. And thirdly, there are no hazardous shoals in that particular area, making it more manageable for a small boat to get in close.
Pike visited the area again on the morning of Sept. 3, but this time in his pickup. He is still amazed by how Megan’s ordeal unfolded.
“For her to fall that distance and only have minor injuries, I couldn’t believe it,” said Pike, staring down at the jagged rocks that jut out along the cliff face.
After the rescue, Pike went home and opened a cold beer. He couldn’t sleep and a few hours later got back in his boat to go fishing.
“It wasn’t a very prosperous day on the water,” he said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about that girl and how she was doing.”
A grateful father
Mike Kendell said there were about 14 young adults socializing at a nearby cottage, and Megan had visited Northern Bay in the past.
He has resisted going into detail with his daughter about the incident, not wanting to upset her. But there’s one thing he knows for sure; it’s amazing his daughter is still alive.
“If you’re walking around cliffs at night, you’re flirting with disaster,” said Mike. “I think she learned her lesson, for sure.”
Megan’s father expressed deep gratitude to all those involved in his daughter’s rescue, and was especially glowing about the role played by Dale Pike.
Mike works at the soon-to-beshuttered Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre in St. John’s, and has plenty of experience interacting with fishermen.
“I have worked with the Coast Guard for almost 23 years, and those people are the best people,” he said. “They know the area.”
That was certainly the case for Pike, who has harvested caplin traps and lobster pots in the area. He knew exactly the correct approach to make in his boat, even in the darkness.
“If I didn’t do it, somebody else would have,” Pike replied when asked why he agreed, without hesitation, to get invovled.
Meanwhile, Megan spoke with CBC News later in the week, recalling her brush with death. She credited her friends with helping keep her spirits up while she waited for rescue.
Fisherman Dale Pike is seen at Isaac’s Cove, Northern Bay on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 3. Pike was one of those invovled in the late-night rescue of a young woman from Mount Pearl over the Labour Day weekend.