A 25-year-old Calgary man says he has a new perspective on life after surviving a remarkable 40-metre plunge down a waterfall north of Kelowna, B.C., on Sunday.
Belal Ajami flew to Kelowna to go camping and hiking with friends in Fintry Provincial Park over the long weekend.
Ajami said he and his group of friends made their way to the end of a trail at the top of Fintry Falls and he stepped over the fence to capture a picture of the view on his phone.
“There were a lot of people other than us swimming, so we thought we can go down there swimming or whatever,” Ajami said.
“I was taking a picture. Everyone was taking pictures. My phone fell.”
Looking to retrieve his cell phone, Ajami walked closer to the water’s edge above the falls. He eventually found the phone, but as he was about to return to the path, he said he slipped on the rocks and fell into the water.
“I tried to hold onto rocks but I couldn’t. … I was like ‘no, no, no, no!’ I gave up and was like, ‘I’m dying.’ Luckily, a miracle happened.”
Ajami plummeted approximately 40 to 45 metres, hitting his back on rocks on the way down.
“I closed my eyes. I woke up in the water at the bottom. … I saw a dry spot, a big rock. I pulled myself with my right hand, flipped to my back and I said, ‘I’m okay.’”
Meanwhile, Bassam Damerji watched as his friend fell into the water and quickly ran back down the trail to try and find him below.
“I started screaming, ‘My friend is gone!’” Damerji recalled.
“I managed to call his cell phone and amazingly his cell phone was still working. So I get to talk to him, find out that his shoulder was a little bit hurt, his back hurt but there’s nothing else hurt. It was a miracle.”
North Westside Fire Department, Kelowna Fire Department, BC Ambulance Service, and Vernon Search and Rescue all responded and worked together to extricate Ajami from his position below the falls.
According to Ajami, many of the rescuers who responded couldn’t believe he walked away with little more than a couple scratches.
“He literally fell about 130 feet and it’s a vertical fall. He shouldn’t have survived but he survived with really no injuries,” search manager Leigh Pearson said Monday.
Pearson added that the situation could have been much different and that boundaries should be respected.
“The problem that a lot of people don’t understand is because it’s near a waterfall, the rocks around them are usually wet and wet rocks are very slippery,” he said.
Ajami has already bought a lottery ticket, and is flying to Vegas with Damerji on Wednesday to see how far his luck will take him.
“Maybe we’re coming back millionaires,” Damerji said. “Who knows? He’s the luckiest guy and my best friend so we’re going to do something good.”
“Now it’s just a memory. I’m going to laugh about it and that’s it,” Ajami said.
“It’s a great story, right?”