COVINGTON, Wash. - A 25-year-old Covington man is recovering after falling off a cliff and hitting some rocks below. But Justin Bullups' family believes he did not jump willingly.
It happened Sunday along the Green River at Kanaskat State Park. The cliff is along the river about 20 feet high. Most people have to run and jump just to clear the rocks below.
"I saw him fall then bump against the rock and then hit the rock down below," says Chris Kooch, the victim's friend.
Billups was at the park with friends on Sunday. What was supposed to be a fun afternoon along the river turned to tragedy after Kooch challenged Billups to a cliff jump.
"He agreed and I jumped off the cliff no problem. Then I waited for him. It was his turn. He stood there and kind of hesistated," says Kooch.
"Justin isn't a good swimmer and I don't think he wanted to tell Chris that this big tough guy couldn't jump off the rock," says Dennis Billups, Justin's father.
According to Kooch, Justin hesitated long enough that about 10 to15 others on the cliff began taunting him, telling him to jump. Kooch says he was down along the shore below when he saw the fall.
"Next thing I heard was a little commotion and it was Justin falling off the cliff. I looked over and the next thing I saw him hit the cliff and fall straight down," says Kooch.
Justin hit the outcropping of rocks below, before falling into the water. Justin was rushed to Valley Medical with a broken heel and foot and crushed vertebrae. After seven hours of surgery, his father says the worst part is that his son can't feel his feet.
"He told me people were behind him yelling jump jump jump and he felt someone behind him give him a push," says Dennis. That push may have permanently changed the life of this young father.
"Somebody knows if someone pushed him and I hope they can come forward," says Dennis.
Justin's family says he hasn't been well enough to talk to police yet. To make matters worse, when he recently lost his construction job he also lost his health insurance.