Rescued California Hiker: ‘I Thought I Was Going to Die’

Dec 30, 2011 9:11am

The California hiker who clung to the side of a cliff for more than 90 minutes Thursday before being rescued said he thought he was going to die.

“When I was going halfway down, that’s when I thought that was the end for myself,” Ivan Salas, 19, said today on “Good Morning America.”  ”I was going too fast and I couldn’t stop.”

Salas, his father and two dogs were hiking along a 300-foot-high ridge in the northeast San Fernando Valley outside of Los Angeles Thursday afternoon when his father threw a water bottle off the cliff’s edge.

Salas’ 1-year-old German Shepherd mix, Lola, chased after the bottle but lost her balance and tumbled over.  Salas tried to rescue her, but instead became trapped, clinging for life alongside Lola, 100 feet down the steep hillside.

“Once I was sliding down, I was just trying to hold onto whatever I could,” said Salas, who appeared on “GMA” with Lola and two of their rescuers from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

“I managed to hold onto a rock that was stable inside the dirt and from there I just got Lola and stayed with her,” he said.  “Any little mistake, I could have just gone straight down.”

Firefighters quickly arrived on the scene, alerted by 911 callers and a police helicopter. A first attempt at a helicopter rescue had to be diverted because of loose dirt and debris on the cliff.

“When the helicopter didn’t rescue me, that’s when I thought I was going to die because the dog was getting nervous,” Salas said.  “She was shaking a lot and I was sliding down as well.”

Firefighters instead went with what they termed their “Plan B” option of using an on-the-ground rescue team to help. Two firefighters rappelled down the cliff and used a rope and harness to bring Salas and Lola, both uninjured in the fall, to stable ground.

“When I got down to them to assist to make sure Ivan was secure, the dog was very nervous, scared, and was basically just clinging on,” rescuer Robert Macinnes said on “GMA.”

The entire rescue took about 90 minutes.

“To be honest, maybe 20 minutes more,” Salas said of how much longer he could have held on.  “I was tired and exhausted.”

Salas said his father, whose throwing of the water bottle started the episode of scary events for his son and family pet, was waiting for him on the ground with a hug, and a reward.

“He gave me money because he knew it was his fault,” said Salas, who also said he would hike with his dog again, but not his dad. “I was happy with that,” he said.

ABC News’ Ellen Tumposky and  Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.

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