Man survives 75-foot plunge at Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

A man plunged 75 feet from an observation deck near the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway over the weekend and miraculously survived, authorities said.

An employee at a restaurant atop the Mt. San Jacinto summit noticed a man climbing over a railing on Saturday just before he slipped and fell, according to Greg Purdy, vice president of marketing and public affairs at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Emergency officials received a call around 5:30 p.m. about a person going over the side of the cliff, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. The man — who was not identified — slipped on hard ice and landed in an inaccessible area, officials said.

A helicopter from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was requested, but because of the icy conditions, it could not assist in the rescue efforts. Instead, firefighters responded to the scene with ropes and riggings and rappelled down to the man’s location.

He was lifted in a stokes basket — a stretcher used in emergency situations to lift patients vertically from steep terrain. The man had minor injuries but declined any additional medical care, Riverside County Fire spokesperson April Newman said. It was not clear why he climbed over the railing.

“Our first priority is not the how it happened, but how a patient is doing during our rescue,” Newman said.

The tramway begins its 2.5-mile scenic trek in the Sonoran Desert and ends in an alpine forest, going from the floor of the Coachella Valley to near the top of San Jacinto Peak, some 8,500 feet above sea level. It first opened in 1963 and is considered one of the largest rotating aerial trams in the world.

The man who was rescued was accompanied by another person, and the two guests rode the tramway back down to the base, Purdy said.

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