He sat on a rock ledge and looked at death for eight solid hours, but a teenage boy from Burien held on long enough for rescuers to reach him on top of a 270-foot waterfall along a raging river.
"I though I was going to die as I was going down the river,” said 13-year-old William Hickman.
William was "OK,” but not exactly in a sweet spot. He was just a few feet from the edge of the 265-foot Wallace Falls.
“I would say he was in a very very dangerous spot, particularly if he tried to move out of there” said Sgt. Danny Wikstrom, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
At one point, after he was lowered to William's position, Oyvind Henningston’s rope sawed through on the rough rock edge and he plunged into the water.
“I went for a very short ride before I was able to climb up on the bank of the river and my back-up line held,” he said.
Hennington was saved by his safety line and a new plan was hatched.
“So we radioed down and said ‘hey, we need a ladder up here,’” said Ernie Zeller, Everett Mountain Rescue. “We ran the ladder down the bank and tied the ladder down on the bank side to secure it.”
With a platform in place they finally reached William, who had been thrown clothes and towels to keep warm. He knew he was finally safe, but it had been a long frightening night for the boy on the ledge
"I was scared they were going to chop off my toes for hypothermia or something,” said William. “The ladder gave me a good place to stand, so he came over and hooked me up in a safety harness and then we had to go straight up.”
“He wanted to go faster than we wanted him to go, so he was motivated to get out of where he was,” said swift water technician Josh Warren.
Between 50 and 60 people – most of them volunteers – were involved in the rescue. They built a fire and stayed put until daylight. That's when the rescue helicopter was able to get into the area and lift them out from the air.