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Kenmore girl, 16, hiking at Zoar Valley rescued after breaking ankle in fall

A Kenmore girl suffered a broken ankle when she tumbled down the sheer side of Zoar Valley gorge Thursday afternoon.

Samantha Simone, 16, and Luke Russell, 20, also of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda area, were hiking in the gorge when they became disoriented at about 5 p.m. Thursday and decided to try to climb out, according to authorities.

As they ascended the gorge, they reached a point where the steep wall turned vertical. Then Samantha fell, tumbling until she came to a stop, wedged between the wall and tree branches, but still about 100 feet above Cattaraugus Creek.

Russell called 911 from his cellphone and state police responded. Troopers then requested assistance from the Erie County Sheriff’s Air One helicopter.

“We flew in the gorge and the young man had managed to climb down and waved at us,” said Air One Capt. Kevin Caffery, who landed the chopper partly on rocks and in the creek bed.

He then climbed up the steep slope and provided first aid, assisted by Deputy Art Litzinger.

“We stabilized her but we didn’t move her. She had a compound fracture of the right ankle and minor head injuries and a lot of cuts and bruises. She only had a pair of shorts and a T-shirt on,” Caffery said.

A call for assistance was placed to state forest rangers and the volunteers at the Gowanda Fire Department, which maintains a high-angle rescue team.

“I told them where we were. They hiked in to us and climbed up to her. They strapped her into a rescue litter and lowered her down to the creek. Then we carried her across the creek to the helicopter and flew her out of the gorge and transferred her to Mercy Flight,” Caffery said.

Samantha was then flown to Erie County Medical Center, where she was admitted and was in stable condition Friday, authorities said.

Russell was not injured.

Caffery added that this was the first rescue of the year from the gorge, explaining that hikers drawn there in the warmer weather sometimes wind up lost because of trails that take them away from the banks of the creek.

“It is a beautiful area but extremely treacherous,” he said.