There are some days in the Pacific Northwest when its better to stay dry, indoors. Today is one of those days for William Hickman, 13, who nearly went over a 265-foot waterfall Sunday near Gold Bar.
Hickman was hiking with his father and some friends when he slipped and went over the edge of the upper falls, a 10-foot drop into a narrow, but deep pool that leads to the huge, cascading Wallace Falls.
'I was thinking it wasn't real, like, 'This cannot be happening,'" said Hickman from his Burien home Monday. "When I fell, I was in standing position with my hand up and I was completely underwater and there was a lot of space below my feet."
Hickman said as soon as he surfaced, he knew he had to get to shore or risk being swept over the 265-foot drop.
"Just kinda tried to swim up and move over cause it'd be safer off to the side," he said.
It was hours until Hickman was pulled to the safety of higher ground. Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue Unit and Gold Bar Fire scrambled coordinate the rescue.
"The worst waiting game ever," Hickman joked and laughed as he recalled the rescue. "I'm sitting there freezing cold, on rocks for eight hours straight. I was scared they were going to have to chop off my toes from hypothermia or something!"
Rescuers threw him a coat, a blanket and two pairs of socks to keep warm, as well as some food.
A helicopter was unable to reach him because of the position of the waterfall, but Hickman was still overjoyed to see it.
"I was like, crying, I was so happy," he said. "I was like, 'I'm going to get saved!'
Still, damp terrain made the rescue difficult. One rescuer fell into the water himself when he rappelled over the edge and a rope snapped.
It was night when rescuers finally reached Hickman. Exhausted, he said he fell asleep at one point during the ordeal, and woke up to see teams with fire ladders attached to each other reaching down to him. A rescuer told him, "This is going to be uncomfortable," and Hickman responded, "Whatever gets me out."
Snohomish County rescuers posted a video of the rescue, which can be viewed here:
By 1:30 a.m., Hickman was back with his father and friends on higher ground, but they still had to camp overnight. It wasn't until 6:00 a.m. when they all finally got to leave Wallace Falls.
He can joke about it now, but Hickman says going over the drop, he thought he was going to die.
"Just luck or something, I don't know."
KING 5's Lindsay Chamberlain contributed to this report.