13-year-old tourist survives nearly 100-foot fall at Grand Canyon

Wyatt Kauffman of North Dakota tells local media he was ‘moving out of the way so other people could take a picture’

A 13-year-old tourist from North Dakota reportedly survived a nearly 100-foot fall at the Grand Canyon. 

Wyatt Kauffman, of Casselton, North Dakota, told KPNX that the incident happened at the North Rim on Tuesday as he was "up on the ledge and was moving out of the way so other people could take a picture." 

"I squatted down and was holding on to a rock. I only had one hand on it," Kauffman said to the station from his hospital bed. "It wasn’t that good of a grip. It was kind of pushing me back. I lost my grip and started to fall back." 

Authorities said it then took emergency crews two hours to rescue Kauffman after he plunged nearly 100 feet at the Bright Angel Point trail. Rescue crews had to rappel down the cliff and get the injured teen out of the canyon in a basket. 


Bright Angel Point Trail Grand Canyon

The Bright Angel Point trail in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where Wyatt Kauffman reportedly fell last week. (National Park Service)

The teenager was airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital for treatment of nine broken vertebrae plus a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung, a concussion, a broken hand and dislocated finger. His father, Brian Kauffman, said Wyatt and his mother were on a trip to visit national parks when the fall happened. 

"After the fall, I don't remember anything after that. I just remember somewhat waking up and being in the back of an ambulance and a helicopter and getting on a plane and getting here," Wyatt Kauffman told KPNX. 

"Two hours is an eternity in a situation like that, but when they have to repel down the cliff and get them out of the out of the canyon in a basket. We’re extremely grateful for the work of everyone," added his father in an interview with the station, which said he was home in North Dakota at the time of the fall. 


View of the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon National Park is covered in the morning sunlight as seen from a helicopter near Tusayan, Arizona, on Oct. 5, 2013. Wyatt Kauffman reportedly was airlifted to a hospital in Las Vegas following the fall on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

"It was one of the most heart-wrenching phone calls I've ever had to be honest with you," Brian Kauffman also said. "We're just lucky we're bringing our kid home in a car in the front seat. Instead of in a box." 

The National Park Service says the Bright Angel Point trail, "although beautiful and popular ... is also rather exposed, narrow and surprisingly steep."  

The trail is about a half mile round trip. 

Aerial view showing red rock formations of the Grand Canyon

Wyatt Kauffman was visiting the Grand Canyon with his mother, according to his father Brian Kauffman. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

"This narrow, paved path provides spectacular views," the NPS says of the trail, "although it drops off dramatically on both sides in some places, and certain sections are surprisingly steep,"

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