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Rescued from an icy fall at Albion Falls, 21-year-old wants safer path

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 following a fall in February

Corey Dixon, 21, pets a therapy dog at Hamilton General Hospital, where he's recovering from a fall from an icy cliff at Albion Falls three weeks ago. (Corey Dixon)

Three weeks ago, Corey Dixon slid on a patch of ice and went over a 12-metre cliff at Albion Falls.

"We went down the staircase and everything was OK," he said. "By the time we got to the bottom of the staircase, I hit black ice and I was gone."

Another friend slipped, too, but went the other way.

"We literally just slipped and I fell right off the cliff."

The man was conscious and able to move his extremities during the rescue, police said. (David Ritchie)
Dixon, 21, called CBC Hamilton from Hamilton General Hospital on Tuesday to tell "the rest of the story," picking up where the brief details shared by emergency crews left off.

As he slid, he said he remembers thinking he was going to stop.

"When I went airborne, that's when I thought that, 'This is it,'" he said.

"The next time I actually woke up was in ICU when they were taking out my breathing tube."

'It's not just some idiot going to Albion Falls and falling off a cliff'

Dixon has a few missions now, three weeks after crews wrapped him in a blanket, packaged him in a basket and lifted him to the top of the falls in the wee hours of Feb. 28.

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

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

Two, he wants to provide a counterpoint to readers and commenters who assumed a 21-year-old man at Albion Falls late at night was up to no good – drunk, stoned or worse.

Dixon drove his mom's car to the falls from Mississauga, and medication he takes prevents him from drinking alcohol, he said.

"There's more to this story than meets the eye," he said. "It's not just some idiot going to Albion Falls and falling off a cliff."

And three, he wants to see a fence put up at the popular waterfall.

His girlfriend of three years is a photographer, and she and Dixon have visited the falls before to take photos there.

The trip in February was to show off the falls to two friends who'd never been.

"People like to go see cool, scenic places," he said.

"My main request to the city is to make it safer. Not to completely barricade it off, but to put fencing along the cliffside where people have fallen off."

'I just want to make sure that Albion Falls becomes safer'

With time on his hands in the hospital, Dixon has researched other stories of people falling at Albion Falls, like a 10-year-old who slipped in 2014, one of a handful of rope rescues there that summer.

Dixon is an actor and motivational speaker who has spoken frankly with young people about living with anxiety and depression, for which he takes medication.

He said the ordeal and the uncertainty has taken a toll on his mental health. Therapy dogs have been helping, as well as monitoring and medication while in the hospital. He plans to transfer to a hospital closer to home in Mississauga on Wednesday.

And, over the phone, he sounds like someone to root for – someone who was showing one of Hamilton's proudest natural features to friends one moment, and whose life suddenly changed the next.

"I can't believe how badly damaged my body is," he said.

But he said he doesn't have any plans to start any legal actions.

"I'm not mad at anything, right?" he said. "I just want to make sure that Albion Falls becomes safer. It's a really nice waterfall. People are going to go there."

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