St. Louis Post Dispatch (March 2, 2016):
AUGUSTA • A large piece of sandstone toppled from a bluff along the Katy Trail Sunday afternoon, hitting a bicyclist who had stopped for a rest on a park bench.
Paul Hopen, assistant fire chief for the Augusta Fire Protection District, said the man suffered a serious head injury and was conscious when crews carted him to a medical helicopter.
The man's medical condition wasn't available Wednesday, and his name has not been released. Because of federal medical privacy laws, Hopen said he had no further information on the victim. Even the ambulance district said it was prohibited from saying which trauma center treated the man.
Hopen said the sandstone was fragile and broke into pieces after hitting the man and the bench. Hopen estimated the initial chunk was fairly big.
"It was probably a 100-pound rock," he said. "It hit him and the bench. When the rock hit the bench area, it came apart."
The victim was taken to a St. Louis-area hospital for treatment of a serious head injury.
"Somebody was watching over him that day, I'm sure," Hopen said. "That's a situation you'd never expect to happen."
The rock fell at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday, a quarter mile west of the boat ramp in Klondike Park.
The man, in his 40s or 50s, had been riding a bicycle on the Katy Trail with a woman. He took a break and sat on a wooden bench, perhaps 20 feet from the base of a towering rock bluff. It was a beautiful day Sunday afternoon with many people using the trail, Hopen said. Someone called 911 after the rock knocked the man unconscious.
Crews arrived to find the man not wearing a helmet, and Hopen doesn't recall seeing one at the scene. However, Hopen said he doesn't know if the man had been wearing a helmet when he was struck.
Hopen was one of the first rescuers to arrive. The man was conscious by that time but "not really alert" and was having trouble responding to basic questions such as what day of the week it was, Hopen said.
Rescuers used an off-road utility task vehicle to get from a parking lot to the scene. The vehicle is specially designed for the St. Charles County ambulance district to use with a stretcher. They took him to an ambulance, then to an awaiting helicopter.
After the accident, a county park ranger used orange plastic fencing and yellow tape to cordon off the bench area.
Val Joyner, a spokeswoman for the St. Charles County Police Department, said she had no information on the incident and referred questions to the county parks department. Nancy Gomer with county parks said the ranger put up the fencing at the request of the state but had no role beyond that.
"It's just a freak accident," Gomer said.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the agency that oversees the trail, was unavailable for comment.
posted Mar 3 2016 1:22PM
- berkebid, Fairview Heights, IL