Saving a Life


Written by Heide Brandes in the June 2013 Issue

Jonah Moore

For 17-year-old Jonah Moore of Edmond, watching a man fall off a cliff and tumble from ledge to ledge meant leaping into action and saving a life. Moore, a member of Boy Scout Troop 78, knew what he had to do thanks to years of training through the Boy Scouts. His actions on one fateful day changed the course of another man’s life forever. “Watching a human being fall is strange,” Jonah said. “It’s like when the dummies fall in the movies. After seeing him fall, I expected to find a corpse.”

Jonah Moore was 16 on the day his troop took the annual climbing and camping trip to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. It was a day when a man fell nearly 40 feet down a cliff and the day when Jonah implemented all the skills he learned in scouting to save a life.

Jonah MooreJonah was rappelling and camping with both younger scouts and adults, and he was looking forward to watching his own little brother try rappelling for the first time. Along for the journey was Kendall Hill, an experienced adult chaperone, whose own son was also rappelling. Jonah said that he had climbed down from the cliff to watch his brother, recalling, “I saw Mr. Hill on the cliff. He was really close to the edge. I remember saying to my friends, ‘If he takes one step, he’ll fall.’ Mr. Hill was an experienced outdoorsman, but he was trying to take pictures of his youngest.”

Sometimes even the most experienced climber can forget to be aware of his surroundings. “I had gone out because my son was rappelling for the first time, and I was trying to get a picture of him,” said Hill. “I was standing on the rock cliff and I leaned out to get the picture. I remember falling, but not a lot of detail.”

When Jonah looked back at Hill, he saw him take that tragic step and topple over. “I looked back to watch, and I heard a funny noise,” Jonah said. “He had taken a step and the rocks slid out from under his feet. He fell, and he hit a stone ledge and slid off the cliff. It was like watching a rag doll.”

Hill fell 10 more feet, hit another ledge, and fell again. Overall, the man fell approximately 40 feet, hitting stone and the jagged cliff all the way down. He finally stopped by a stagnant pool of water at the base of the cliff.

“Oddly, my first thought was that this was going to ruin the kids’ weekend,” Moore said. “But I started running toward him.…When I got to him, he was trying to stand up.”

Jonah put a hand on the injured man’s chest and urged him to lay still. Hill recalls, “I remember I tried to stand a few times, but Jonah kept holding me down and telling me to stay still.” Hill was in shock, and immediately, Jonah saw horrendous injuries. “I saw bone sticking out of his leg and I thought his arms were broken. I looked down at his leg and saw the water in the pond getting redder and redder.”

Jonah MooreJonah cut off the man’s pant legs up to the knee, uncovering a shattered ankle and knee cap. “He’d dislocated his ankle so bad that the foot was just dangling there, held on only by the Achilles,” Jonah said. “Bone was sticking out.”

The young rescuer said he knew he had to act fast, but the first-aid kit was still on top of the cliff. He used his bandana to tie around the back of the ankle to help stop the bleeding and tried to push the bone jutting out of Hill’s leg back into the body. “By that time, another adult had come,” Jonah said.    

Together, the two worked to secure Hill’s head and elevate his shattered leg. Jonah kept talking to Hill, trying to determine if the man’s back was injured and to keep him from going into shock. The other adults quickly herded the scouts back to the campground and called for emergency aid, but the rescuers would have to hike stretchers into the rough and primitive land.

 “I kept treating him for shock, but the worst part was when I saw the pain register in his face,” said Jonah. “He said ‘Guys, my leg hurts. The bone is sticking out, isn’t it?’ I just kept telling him he was going to be fine.”

Thirty minutes passed before paramedics were able to reach the group. Because of Jonah’s obvious take-charge attitude, the paramedics began speaking to him as the leader of the group. Using ropes and restraining baskets, the rescuers were able to haul the injured Hill out of the canyon, up steep trails and through wilderness. Throughout the ordeal, Jonah took the lead. “They told me I did a great job and that I probably saved his leg,” he said. “I had taken the Boy Scouts of America lifeguard training which includes basic triage. It all came back to me. As soon as I knew he wasn’t as bad as I thought, I went into business mode.” In fact, Jonah acted so mature and in charge that the paramedics mistook him for an adult and invited him out for a beer later to honor his lifesaving ability.

Amazingly, Hill survived a shattered leg, a few broken ribs, facial injuries, a mild concussion, a lost tooth and a major gash on his lip from his fall. However, after surgery on his leg, the flesh became gangrenous and the leg had to be amputated below the knee. “I felt really bad about that,” Jonah said. “The paramedics said I helped save his leg, but he lost it anyway. He was big into motorcycles, so that made me feel really sad. He told me, though, that he would ride again.”

HillHill now wears a prosthetic leg, and Jonah was hailed as a hero, a title that mystifies him. He was responding as any Boy Scout would. For his actions that day, Jonah received the Boy Scouts of America’s National Court of Honor Heroism Award in 2012 for saving a life with minimum risk to self. He also received the 2012 Joe Chase Memorial Award from Troop 78 for all-around service.

“The Boy Scouts and wrestling have taught me the skills that saved his life,” Jonah said. “But the most important thing I’ve learned is leadership experience, not just for myself, but to teach others. A lot of the skills you learn are pointless unless you teach them to someone else too.”

Editor’s note:

When Mr. Hill arrived for our photo shoot in May, he had fulfilled his dream to ride again. He arrived on his motorcycle for the reunion.


Jeanette Spilman Says:
June 3rd, 2013 at 10:07 pm are an awesome young man and we are so proud of you!

Debra Thomas Says:
June 6th, 2013 at 9:17 am
As Kendall's sister, I would like to thank Jonah and the rest of the troop for their amazing efforts on that day. To this day, I believe if he had not been with them he would most certainly not have made it out of this alive. Thanks again.

Benjamin Says:
June 12th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Larry Green Says:
June 12th, 2013 at 6:22 pm
God bless the BSA!

Margaret Mantooth Says:
June 12th, 2013 at 6:24 pm
Great job, Jonah! I am very proud and excited to read your story. GOD BLESS YOU!

Susan Lunardini Says:
June 12th, 2013 at 8:06 pm
Makes me so proud of him and so grateful for the education my two Order of the Arrow, almost Eagle grandsons. Thanks to all the men who lead these young me toward responsible adulthood.

Lesley Says:
June 13th, 2013 at 3:29 am
BRAVO very well done - this is why I am a Scout Leader (from Australia) - people like you make all the effort we put in worthwhile. Thank you for having such a clear head and mature attitude.

Don Clack Says:
June 14th, 2013 at 10:53 am
I'd like to thank Jonah too. If he hadn't done what he did, I probably would have lost another dear friend. Thanks for helping Kendall grow older with the rest of us.

Larry Borshard Says:
June 25th, 2013 at 12:24 pm
No denying the vital role Jonah played. Even with current training and practice, it's hard to say who among us would stay calm, take command and administer proper aid. However, this must also provides critical lessons about following BSA's Climb On Safely requirements for Qualified Supervision, Qualified Instructors and Safe Area. Thankfully, Planning was adequate enough for paramedics to arrive so quickly.

Jim Soria Says:
July 23rd, 2013 at 10:20 am
Jonah, you have set an example of being calm and collective. You took charge of the situation that the paramedic thought your were an adult. You're a great BSA product.
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