May 30, 2023


Firefighters rescue man from gorge

WATKINS GLEN—The Watkins Glen Fire Department performed a dangerous rescue operation to save Zachary Smith, 22, who was trapped in the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park. Smith became trapped in the gorge Tuesday afternoon, March 11 and was able to call for help on his cell phone. The gorge trail was closed at the time. Watkins Glen Fire Chief Dominick Smith said the man could have died had things not gone the way they did.
“He could have died very easily,” Dominick Smith said. “He called for help on his cell phone. Cell phones don’t always work. […] He was lucky enough to get out that call for help. If he had to stay in there overnight, I don’t think he would have made it. The odds worked in his favor.”
The fire chief said Zachary Smith was stuck near the Rainbow Falls area, but they were unable to locate where he was trapped at first.
“We were called at about quarter to 4 p.m. last Tuesday for a gentleman stuck in the gorge above the Rainbow Falls,” Dominick Smith said. “That was all the information we had. We mobilized with our technical rescue unit and went into the gorge and we couldn’t get to him because the Rainbow Falls area was completely frozen over.”
Dominick Smith said they had to send a crew in from the top of the glen to try to locate the man, finding him 100 yards above the Rainbow Falls. He said he was stuck inside on the gorge trail and could not get out. The chief said they set up a rappelling system to lower a rescuer down into the gorge to get to the man and see if he required any medical attention.
“We hooked him into our rappelling system and brought him up,” Dominick Smith said. “It was about a 150-foot rappel down into the gorge. It was very dangerous. Side to side and across the bottom was all ice. They did an awesome job not knowing what we were going to have to do or how long we were going to be there.”
The fire chief said the whole rescue took three hours. He said Beaver Dams, Montour Falls Odessa and Burdett Fire Departments were also called in for generators and other equipment purposes. Dominick Smith said there were 20 Watkins Glen firefighters on the scene, with a total of 45 people participating in the operation. New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Public Information Officer Randy Simons said Zachary Smith was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct

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