Photographer injured in fall during Tevis Cup

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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A photographer was airlifted to a Reno hospital after a fall from Cougar Rock on the Western States Trail during the Tevis Cup endurance ride Saturday. Chris Gonzalez, 41, suffered a broken ankle, two broken wrists and a broken nose, according to Melinda Hughes-Berland, owner of Hughes Photography in Santa Rosa. “He just stepped backward and all of a sudden he was airborne,” Hughes-Berland said Monday. It was his first time to cover the ride for Hughes, the official Tevis Cup photographer for 30 years. On Monday, Gonzalez, a Santa Rosa resident, was recovering at Renown Hospital in Reno and was to be transferred to a Kaiser facility, Hughes said. Cougar Rock is 23.5 miles into the 100-mile trek, which runs from Robie Park near Truckee to Auburn. The accident happened a little after 9 a.m., ride director Mike Pickett said. Tevis Cup volunteer Chuck Mather, a past president of the Western States Trail Foundation, witnessed the fall and immediately called for help. “About midway through the ride, there was a break in the action,” Mather said. “Chris was taking a breather. He took a stretching step backward but there was no place for his foot to go because he was on the very edge. … It’s a straight vertical drop to the rocks below.” The drop was about 20 feet, he said. As the group at Cougar Rock waited for help, another photographer, recently out of the Marine Corps, administered first aid. “They got (Gonzalez) immediately assessed, set up for shock treatment and legs elevated,” Mather said. It took about three hours for rescuers to reach the remote site and transport Gonzalez out, Mather said. The first helicopter, unable to put down, departed to wait at a landing site three miles away. But a second, smaller California Highway Patrol helicopter was able to reach the injured man. “They got (Gonzalez) on the backboard and then CHP officers gave instructions on how to hook him up,” Mather explained “… They dropped down a long line and he was flown hanging underneath.” Gonzalez was then transferred to the CALSTAR helicopter to be transported to the hospital, he added. “The CHP did an incredible job. They were just fabulous,” Hughes-Berland said. Reach Gloria Young at