Colorado Woman Survives 200-Foot Fall After Slipping on Ice in Her Tennis Shoes During Hike

​A Colorado woman miraculously survived a 200-foot fall on Christmas Eve when she tumbled down an icy California mountainside, outfitted only in tennis shoes. Ruth Woroniecki, 40, left her Lytle Creek campground early in the morning to hike to Cucamonga Peak, one of the highest points in the San Gabriel Mountains. Woroniecki is an experienced hiker, but this was her first trip in snowy conditions.

Unaware that she needed special equipment and boots to navigate the icy slope safely, she was wearing only casual clothes and sneakers. Read on to find out how the severely injured hiker was found, what the problematic rescue entailed, and what happened after she was back on solid ground. 

1

Fell the Distance of a Small Skyscraper

As Woroniecki was hiking back to her campsite from the 8,000-foot peak, she lost her footing on ice and fell the equivalent of about 20 stories. "As Woroniecki hiked down the switchbacks, she slipped on ice and fell approximately 200 feet," said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Corporal Chris Mejia. A downed tree trunk broke her fall, which could have been worse; still, she suffered severe injuries.

An unconscious Woroniecki was discovered by another hiker, who used crampons and an ice ax to reach her, then notified authorities through a GPS device. A search-and-rescue team evacuated the injured hiker via helicopter, despite gusty winds, which complicated the rescue, Mejia said.

2

Rushed to Hospital for Surgery

Woroniecki was rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, including a fractured neck and head wound. "She seemed a little dazed, confused, but very thankful we were able to get her off that mountain," said Deputy Doug Brimmer, who flew the 40 King 4 rescue helicopter during Woroniecki's rescue.

"She initially went feet first and then she hit her head on a log and she went unconscious. She woke up to another hiker helping her out." While preparing for surgery, Woroniecki passed along a message to her mother. "To anyone else who is suffering, call out to Jesus and he will help you," she said. "I would like to say a deep thank you from the bottom of my heart to the rescue team and to the hikers who helped me and stayed with me."

3

How to Avoid a Fall

"On Tuesday, Ruth was in stable condition after her first surgery," the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. "She required dozens of stitches and staples to close the laceration in her head, and neural surgery to begin repairing the damage to her spine. She has a long road ahead of therapy and treatment." 

Grateful that Woroniecki survived the fall, law enforcement have offered tips to other hikers. "This goes to serve for those that want to go up there hiking. Remember, bring your crampons, bring your spikes, bring an axe," said Brimmer.

4

"A Miracle She Is Alive"

Her family said on social media that two days before the hike, Woroniecki was distributing food, clothing, and supplies to homeless people in Los Angeles. Her brother, Joshua, said in a Facebook post that his sister had undergone multiple surgeries. "It is a miracle she is alive," he wrote. Ruth Woroniecki's sister, Sarah, added: "I have never been so shocked and devastated… I can't stop crying. We are absolutely broken. It's hard to believe." 

5

"GoFundMe Started"

The family has started a GoFundMe to defray Woroniecki's medical bills and physical therapy. They say any excess funds raised will go to others in need. "My sister is no ordinary person, she is one of the kindest, most sincere, and most loving people you will ever meet," Sarah Woroniecki wrote about her sister. "She has dedicated her life to helping others and spends all of her time in this country, or many third-world countries, in orphanages, hospitals, on the streets."