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City says no fence needed after 21-year-old tumbles at Albion Falls

Corey Dixon, 21, tells “the rest of the story” of his rope rescue at Albion Falls three weeks ago, picking up where the brief details shared by emergency crews left off.

Corey Dixon has been recovering in Hamilton General Hospital for weeks after a fall in February

Corey Dixon, in his hospital bed at Hamilton General Hospital, before he was transferred to a hospital closer to home in Mississauga. (Chris Seto/CBC)

Despite calls from a hospitalized 21-year-old for increased safety measures like a fence at Albion Falls in Hamilton, the city's parks manager said none are needed.

But it's not the first time the question of increased safety has come up at the popular sight.

"We've looked at fencing in the past," said Tennessee Propedo, director of city parks. "The biggest problem is that [the waterfall] is part of the escarpment, which is a living, breathing creature."

If the city or Hamilton Conservation Authority installed fencing, the footings to hold it securely would have to be placed far enough back to avoid splitting the rock and further eroding the ridge, he said.

That would impede the aesthetic appeal of the waterfalls, he said. And people would get curious about what was behind that fence and climb around it anyway.

'Functions of my body that I don't know if I'm going to get back'

Corey Dixon, 21, went to Albion Falls with friends a few weeks ago, late on a Saturday night in February. He slipped on ice and said he went over a 12-metre drop to the bottom of the falls.

Rescue crews packaged him in a basket and lifted him to the top to transport him to hospital, where he's been for the past three weeks.

He broke his back and other bones, shattered his arm, and had a concussion and a brain bleed. Five surgeries later, he said, there's a lot of uncertainty about whether he'll walk or use his left arm again.

"This has been a very emotional journey for my family and friends," he said on Tuesday. "There's a lot of functions of my body that I don't know if I'm going to get back."

The reaction to his predicament from readers has been swift and largely unforgiving. The most-liked comment on CBC Hamilton's Facebook post about Dixon suggests "good old-fashioned common sense" was missing here. 

Dixon said he doesn't want to see Albion Falls completely barricaded off, but he said some kind of fence along the cliffside might have lessened or prevented his injuries, which are numerous.

"I still have a long way to go in my healing process," he said. And I'm going to be stuck in a hospital for a while."

'We review what's happened'

But Propedo said his understanding of this situation suggests a lot of the blame belongs to Dixon, coming to the falls around midnight in February.

"Whenever there's an incident at any of the city-owned waterfalls, we review what's happened, what's caused the injury, what safety measures might be needed."

In this case, Propedo said he heard that Dixon was climbing the waterfall when he fell. That's not what Dixon said happened, nor what emergency crews released to media at the time.

Propedo said he got his information from an interview on CHML radio.

'There will be snow; there will be ice'

Neither Hamilton Fire nor Hamilton Police have any information in their files to suggest that Dixon was trying to climb the waterfall.

The man was conscious and able to move his extremities during the rescue, police said. (David Ritchie)
"Detectives indicated after speaking with witnesses that it appears they were going to hike the trail," said Hamilton Police Const. Steve Welton.

"Once they got to the bottom of the stairs, they saw there was too much ice," Welton said. "The victim turned to go back up. He slipped and slid a distance before going over what appeared to be a 30-foot cliff."

Propedo said the most important thing is for each person to take responsibility for him or herself in their surroundings.

"There will be snow; there will be ice. You've got to be cognizant of your surroundings. And why put yourself into a situation that could be dangerous?" he said.

"This is one of these unfortunate accidents."

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