Beware the Big Plunge!

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Posted by Frazier Frankie on January 05, 2003 at 02:31:22:

In Reply to: Mineshaft posted by Trona Joe on January 04, 2003 at 01:38:38:

Interesting story at

14-year-old survives plunge down 25-foot mine shaft
By LINDA SAPPINGTON, Bakersfield Californian correspondent
Saturday January 04, 2003, 08:30:08 PM

RIDGECREST -- A 14-year-old boy survived a 25-foot fall down an abandoned mine shaft near Ridgecrest Saturday while riding his dirt bike in the Spangler Hills off-road vehicle open area. Michael Markel of Fresno said he was cresting a hill at about 20 mph, preparing to jump at the top, when he saw the unprotected mine shaft and attempted to brake. His bike skidded to the side but Markel rolled over the handlebars and fell into the shaft, falling 25 feet before landing on corrugated tin, rocks and wooden two-by-fours, he said. "I was just waiting to hit the bottom," said Michael, recounting his thoughts as he fell down the 5- by 7-foot-wide shaft, narrowly missing a large wooden pole protruding from the hole. "If he had jumped it, he would impaled himself right on it," said Jeff Hannon, one of three Ridgecrest-area United Parcel Service package drivers who helped pull Markel out with a tow strap. The trio had been off-roading in the area, which is 16 miles south of Ridgecrest.

Michael, who received only minor scratches on his arms and stomach, said he was familiar with the Spangler Hills area where he and his father, Jeff Markel, had camped and ridden dirt bikes several times in the past year. But he said he hadn't driven that particular route before. Because he was riding with other dirt bikers, he was rescued quickly, said his father. "Our rules are: Never ride alone, and always wear your helmet," Jeff Markel said.

Although the mine shaft was located in a designated off-road area managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, it did not have any protective barriers or warning signs, according to Jeff Markel. Bureau of Land Management law enforcement Officer Ed Patrovsky was at the scene to investigate the unprotected shaft.

The incident was the second in the last year in the rugged eastern Kern County desert, a region pockmarked by uncounted thousands of abandoned mine shafts. On May 26, 10-year-old Mark Mercado of Los Angeles was rescued after falling 200 feet down a 300-foot deep mine shaft about 5 miles from the site of Saturday's incident. Mercado was even luckier than Michael. As he flipped into the mine shaft, he dislodged a piece of shoring lumber from the edge of the hole. Wood and boy then plunged for 200 feet. Finally, the lumber wedged into the wall and stopped the boy's fall. He was rescued by the Kern County sheriff's Indian Wells Valley mine rescue team after several harrowing hours perched over the black hole below. He suffered only minor injuries.

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