‘I SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE!' Teen falls 20m and survives
ONE minute Dalton Baker was checking the surf from Pilot Hill, the next he was at the bottom of the Yamba cliff - bleeding, broken and unable to get up.
The Gulmarrad teenager is slowly recovering after surviving a fall of more than 20m on January 12.
At the time of the accident, he was on the phone to his best friend who was waiting for him on Turners Beach with two bodyboards in hand.
"I said I'll get up and be down there in a second," Dalton said.
"I put my foot on a rock and it slipped out - my mate said the rock that slipped out was the size of a bowling ball.
"I kept slipping down and starting falling. I was still on the phone to my best mate; he watched me fall the whole time."
After free-falling for "what felt like five minutes", the 18-year-old hit a ledge halfway down the cliff that broke the fall and may have been his saving grace.
"As soon as I started falling I just thought, 'I'm going to die, I'm going to die'," he said.
"I thought if I land on my feet I'd be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, and if I landed on my head I'd be dead, so I held my arm around my head and tried to land on my side."
His left side took the majority of the shock, breaking his shoulder, elbow, both wrists and causing about 50 fractures in his pelvis and lower back.
Despite his injuries Dalton remained conscious and even tried to walk it off.
"The first thing I tried to do was get up and walk away from it like nothing happened," he said.
"I got halfway up and just collapsed. My right leg was paralysed from hip to knee.
"My mate said 'Don't move, you've probably broken your neck'."
I thought if I land on my feet I'd be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, and if I landed on my head I'd be dead, so I held my arm around my head and tried to land on my side.
Yamba paramedics rushed to stabilise him and take him to the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter waiting at the Yamba oval to take him to Lismore Base Hospital.
He spent two weeks there before moving to Maclean Hospital and later being discharged.
"The day I got out of hospital I went and checked out where I landed," he said.
"Everyone was saying I shouldn't be alive. My dad is still reeling.
"I know I shouldn't have been sitting there but I'd been doing it for five years."
After numerous surgeries, Dalton now has a plate and 10 screws in his left shoulder, two pins in his elbow, a screw and a pin in his left wrist and a screw, metal box and stainless steel wire in his right hand.
"I'm going to hate going (through the metal detectors) to the airport now."
Both of his wrists are still in casts and he has just started walking without the aid of a wheelchair.
The casts are due to come off on February 24; three days shy of his 19th birthday.
He is already planning the day he can get back in the water to go bodyboarding with friends - March 27.
"I just can't push myself to the limit now but that's the day I should be able to do it," he said.
"Everyone's chipped in to get me a new bodyboard. I'm just waiting to heal up now so I can go use it."