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Boy, 11, survives 200-foot sliding fall in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – An 11-year-old boy was airlifted to a hospital but is expected to recover after he tumbled down a 200-foot rock slope while hiking with this family near a scenic waterfall in northern Utah, authorities said Monday.

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office said Cesar Varvagan of Orem tumbled down the rocky, steep slope Sunday in Provo Canyon.

The boy, who was awake and talking to rescuers, was airlifted to a hospital in critical condition, having hurt his head, back and hip and possibly broken his collarbone, officials said.

His condition improved overnight, and he was expected to be released from the hospital Monday, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. The boy’s parents declined through law enforcement to be interviewed.

Sgt. Spencer Cannon said the fall occurred while the boy was hiking on a steep trail next to Bridal Veil Falls.

He took a few jumping steps before tumbling down a steep slope with loose rocks and stones. He landed on a trail along the Provo River, Cannon said.

“Once he took those first couple steps, it’s not a sure footing at all. He tumbled and rolled most of the 200 feet,” Cannon said. “It was a fall, but it was more of a rolling fall than it was straight down a cliff.”

Close to the waterfall, the trail can get slippery from the spray, but Cannon said he believes the boy was outside that slippery area.

Bridal Veil Falls, a 607-foot waterfall dropping into the Provo River, is popular with hikers and bikers, according to Utah County’s tourism website. The waterfall freezes in the winter, making it a favorite spot for ice climbers.

With thousands of visitors every year and higher foot traffic in the summer, falls and injuries do occur in the canyon, Cannon said.

“With the number of visitors we have there, we’ll have a half-dozen or so times where we get calls for things similar to this,” he said. “They’re not usually this serious.”

Officials reported two deaths from falls in the area this year.

One man died in May after falling more than 150 feet in the canyon, but officials later determined he had intentionally jumped in an apparent suicide. In January, a woman fell about 30 feet while ice climbing the falls and died from her injuries a week later.

In 2007, a 22-year-old Brigham Young University student from Idaho died in the canyon after falling 200 feet.

The steep terrain can cause people to run into trouble if they make a misstep or stumble, Cannon said, but “it’s not unusually dangerous as long as people are careful.”

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