Al­bion Falls hik­ers trapped as wa­ter rushes down stream

Group was hik­ing and tak­ing pic­tures at base of falls; then rain hit and changed their fun time

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - NATALIE PAD­DON THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

A “loud, thun­der­ous noise” was all Christo­pher Palumbo heard be­fore the wa­ter started rush­ing down Al­bion Falls to­ward him and his five bud­dies.

The 19-year-old from Vaughan road tripped to Hamil­ton on the long week­end to hike the trails and shoot some pho­tos of the falls, but a quick turn in the weather changed those plans.

Thun­der and rain prompted the group to take cover un­der a rock ledge Mon­day af­ter­noon, and that’s when the wa­ter came.

“We heard a loud, thun­der­ous noise, and we

all looked up and saw that all the wa­ter had started rush­ing down the water­fall,” he said.

“It was like this wa­ter had come out of nowhere.”

At first, they were amazed by the beauty and power of the flow, he said.

“Then we re­al­ize, this thing’s com­ing right to­wards us.”

The friends picked up their gear and fled down­stream. The flood­ing started, and peo­ple got split up from one an­other and stuck on cliff sides, he said.

He and his friends man­aged to cross the wa­ter and get to high ground but then he got stuck. While look­ing for ways to get back on the trail and find his way out of the falls, he ran into a cou­ple of peo­ple stuck on the same side as him.

“We all kind of stayed to­gether just to fig­ure out how we were go­ing to get across,” he said.

“Some peo­ple were from out of the prov­ince, so they were re­ally un­fa­mil­iar with the area.

“They had no idea what they were walk­ing into.”

About 30 peo­ple were down at the base of the falls when the wa­ter started rush­ing, Palumbo noted, in­clud­ing a man who got stuck in the wa­ter as it was flow­ing.

Palumbo said the man man­aged to hold on to his dog de­spite get­ting washed down shore.

With the help of emer­gency per­son­nel, Palumbo was walked to safety. Nei­ther he nor his friends suf­fered any in­juries, he said.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the mis­ad­ven­ture dur­ing his first visit to Al­bion Falls, Palumbo said he was shocked. But a few hours later, that ini­tial panic had al­ready sub­sided.

“We’re all calmed down,” he said. “I don’t think it’s some­thing we’ll let bother us in the fu­ture.”

But he did have a few words of ad­vice for any­one think­ing of trav­el­ling down the sleep slopes any­time soon: “Be pre­pared. Plan … Know what you’re get­ting your­self into.”

Hamil­ton fire pre­ven­tion of­fi­cer Steve McArthur said a to­tal of 10 hik­ers needed as­sis­tance get­ting out of Al­bion Falls af­ter an “ex­ces­sive amount of wa­ter” came Mon­day af­ter­noon. No one was in­jured, he said.

Al­bion Falls has been at the cen­tre of the pub­lic and po­lit­i­cal back­lash lately over peo­ple ig­nor­ing safety warn­ings and tres­pass­ing.

This has led the city to bol­ster safety fea­tures, in­clud­ing ad­ding $75,000 worth of fenc­ing and in­creas­ing tick­et­ing en­force­ment of tres­passers.

Palumbo, who was in­formed af­ter­wards that he was in a re­stricted area, said he didn’t re­ceive a ticket. He said by­law told him that was be­cause there was “no signage” in the area he was in.

Mon­day’s rain also prompted an­other res­cue at Lower Che­doke Falls about a half hour be­fore crews were called to Al­bion Falls.

At Che­doke, a fam­ily of five — three adults and two kids — be­came stranded on rocks be­cause of fast mov­ing wa­ter, McArthur said. No one was in­jured, he added. Hamil­ton Po­lice Ser­vice’s ma­rine unit was called in to help with that rope res­cue us­ing a por­ta­ble wa­ter res­cue craft be­cause of their “swift wa­ter” train­ing, said Const. Ben Rush­ton.

“The rapids were quite swift when we first got there,” said Rush­ton.

Peo­ple need to be aware of the po­ten­tial haz­ards around them, Rush­ton said.

“When they’re hik­ing, es­pe­cially when they’re near steep cliffs ob­vi­ously you need to stay back from that and obey any signage and fences and stay on marked trails,” he said.

“And then when there’s rain, def­i­nitely stay away from wa­ter’s edge.”

SCOTT GARD­NER, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Ser­gio Uman­zor, 20, of Vaughan, is es­corted up the trail near Al­bion Falls by a Hamil­ton fire­fighter Mon­day af­ter­noon.

SCOTT GARD­NER, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Wa­ter rushes down Al­bion Falls Mon­day af­ter­noon af­ter heavy rains.

SCOTT GARD­NER, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

From left, Chris Palumbo, 19, Adam Guadag­noli, 19, Ni­cola Cac­cavella, 20, and Ser­gio Uman­zor, 20.

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