‘I’m Going to Die Up Here’: Hiker Recounts Harrowing 10-Hours Trapped Under a Boulder in Inyo Mountains

In a harrowing ordeal, a Californian adventurer was trapped for 10 hours beneath a massive boulder in the Inyo Mountains. Now, details of the terrifying story have been told to the New York Times.

The incident occurred on December 5 when Kevin DePaolo, along with friend Josh Nelson, was hiking near Santa Rita Flat. Depaolo was digging in the sand when the colossal boulder, estimated to be the size of a grand piano, suddenly dislodged and pinned him beneath its weight. He described the impact as feeling “like getting hit by a fridge.”

With immense determination, DePaolo and Nelson managed to free his left leg but were unable to extricate his right leg, which remained trapped. His left leg was severely injured during the accident.

“I’m going to die up here,” DePaolo told himself.

Nelson promptly called 911, initiating a complex and daring rescue operation led by Inyo County Search and Rescue. As they awaited rescue in the remote wilderness, Nelson tended to DePaolo’s injuries, keeping him calm and warm. They built a fire, and Nelson tied his sweater around DePaolo’s injured leg.

At around 10 p.m., rescue lights arrived in the darkness, signaling the arrival of the rescue team. The team used a sophisticated system of ropes and pulleys, anchored to a lower rock on the hillside, to shift the boulder away from DePaolo’s leg incrementally.

A Navy medic descended from a helicopter and hoisted DePaolo, who was then flown to a Fresno hospital for surgery. Despite severe injuries, DePaolo did not lose his leg, and he’s thankful for everyone involved in his miraculous rescue.

DePaolo suffered a cracked pelvis, a severed femoral artery in his left leg, and significant damage to his right leg. In fact, he was very close to losing his leg altogether.

While he awaits the return of feeling in his right foot, he knows he’s been given a second chance at life. Doctors expect him to be able to walk again soon.

“I’m just extremely grateful to be alive. It made me realize that life is so precious,” said Depaolo.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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