A family hiking in Utah witnessed a frightening scene when a BASE jumper leapt from the edge of a cliff, then slammed into a canyon wall hundreds of feet below — and was left dangling after his parachute got caught on the rocks.
Mitch Edwards and his 12-year-old son Baron captured the stomach-churning drama on their cellphones as it unfolded amidst the 700-ft. red rock canyons while they were hiking near Moab, Utah.
"He just slammed into that thing hard, and then started to fall straight down," Edwards told a reporter with KSL TV, describing the scene that played out near Kane Creek Canyon on Nov. 26.
"And he was probably 200-300 feet above the ground when he first hit the cliff ... My guess is that he fell close to 100 feet before hitting a ledge, and then that chute snagged on the ledge — miraculously — because on those cliffs, there's really nothing to snag on," Edwards continued. "And there happened to be a little outcropping there."
That made all the difference for the crash victim, a spokesman for the Grand County Sheriff's Office told PEOPLE.
"He was lucky," the spokesman said. "If his parachute hadn't caught on the rock, it probably would have led to his demise."
Edwards and his family watched in horror as two other BASE jumpers — who had successfully jumped shortly before the victim — sprinted to the bottom of the cliff and stared up helplessly at their companion.
"They were standing there dumbfounded ... like how do we save this guy?" Edwards told the news station.
Realizing that there wasn't much he could do to help the stranded jumper because he was unable to get a cell signal, Edwards continued his hike with family to some nearby petroglyphs. Along the way, he reportedly flagged down a motorist and told him to call 911 once they got into an area with cell service.
By the time the family returned an hour later, a search and rescue team with the Grand County Sheriff's Office had launched an operation to retrieve the victim.
"Somebody miraculously got up there and then got the guy — we couldn't quite tell from the distance if he was conscious or not — but got him on another rope and lowered him down to the ground," Edwards told KSL TV, describing the nearly two-hour-long rescue operation.
The victim was airlifted to a nearby hospital, the sheriff's office spokesman confirmed to PEOPLE. The man, according to KSL, remains in critical condition.