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Havre de Grace woman recovering after fall from Port Deposit cliff

Rebecca Ashman, of Havre de Grace, posted this photo of herself on Facebook after she was rescued Tuesday from a fall off a cliff near Port Deposit.
Rebecca Ashman, of Havre de Grace, posted this photo of herself on Facebook after she was rescued Tuesday from a fall off a cliff near Port Deposit. (Courtesy of Rebecca Ashman)

A young Havre de Grace woman is at home recovering after suffering only minor injuries despite falling 70 feet down the side of a cliff near Port Deposit Tuesday.

Rebecca Ashman, 19, considers herself extremely lucky after her fall from the cliff known as The Eye – because of the eyeball painted on the rocks behind it – and she is warning others to avoid taking unnecessary risks as they climb local cliffs and rock formations in pursuit of scenic views.

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"It's not worth risking your life, and I'm beyond lucky to have had as minimal injuries as possible and to walk out of Shock Trauma today," Ashman said during a telephone interview Wednesday evening.

The fall happened around 5 p.m. Tuesday. Members of the Water Witch Volunteer Fire Company, of Port Deposit, Cecil County paramedics and the Harford County Technical Rescue Team responded, Cecil County Emergency Services Director Richard Brooks said in an email Wednesday.

Ashman said rescue workers placed her on a backboard, carried her to an ambulance which then took her back to the Water Witch firehouse, where they met a Maryland State Police Medevac that flew her to Shock Trauma, where she arrived about two hours after the fall.

Ashman later posted a message on her Facebook page warning people to avoid unsafe climbs, along with photos from her rescue and hospital stay.

"As beautiful as the eye and the view from the top is, not only is it trespassing but it really is a dangerous place," she wrote. "I know personally I will never be going back again and I really hope some of you will weigh the risks before you go up just to see a nice view and get some cool pictures."

Ashman has visited popular climbing sites in Cecil and Harford counties, such as the King and Queen Seat in Rocks State Park, the cliffs along the Susquehanna River near Conowingo in Cecil County, and The Eye, which affords views of the river and the rail line along the east bank of the Susquehanna.

"I love the view, and I've always loved the experience of being up and looking over [the water]," she said.

Ashman remains in good spirits, despite extensive scratches and burns on her back, front and limbs, as well as slight injuries to her liver and lung, and a broken right pinkie finger.

"Unfortunately, that's my throwing arm," said Ashman, who plays shortstop for the Cecil College softball team.

The 2014 graduate of Havre de Grace High School is studying government contracting at Cecil College. She expects to be out of softball for at least two weeks, as she returns to Shock Trauma for checkups with doctors and a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon.

Ashman said she and her good friend and softball teammate, Kirsten "K.P." Pannell, decided to visit The Eye Tuesday after their classes and enjoy the sunny spring-like weather. Pannell plays first base for the Seahawks.

They climbed up a trail and arrived at The Eye around 4:45 p.m.

"We were really only up at the top for about 10 minutes before it happened," Ashman recalled.

She said she was sitting on the edge of the cliff, dangling her legs over the side, when she turned to her left to reach up and grab a rock. As she turned, her weight carried her off the cliff.

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"I just fell backward over it," she said.

Ashman tried to grab tree branches as she fell and struck sections of the rocky cliff face, but could not stop herself. She landed in the dirt on her back behind a tree. She estimates the tumble was about 70 feet down.

"The place that I stopped was the only place within 50 feet on each side of me that wasn't a rock," she said.

Ashman tried to keep herself calm, and she yelled up to Pannell and a small group of other young women also on the cliff, to let them know she was conscious.

Pannell and another woman rushed back down the path, along the train tracks and then up a rise to get to Ashman.

They called 911 and her parents, and Pannell tried to keep her friend calm while they waited for first responders to arrive.

Ashman said it seemed her friend "was freaking out a little bit more than I was."

"I think we definitely helped each other stay calm, honestly," Ashman said.

Ashman has worked as a lifeguard and is certified in First Aid and CPR, and she knows the importance of keeping an injured person calm and in good spirits.

She got the same treatment from the first responders after they arrived. They even took "selfie" pictures with her, and she described them as "just so sweet and helpful."

"They were dropping jokes and basically tried to make me feel better," Ashman said.

The Medevac crew members also went out of their way to make her feel calm and comfortable.

"They were so nice to me the whole time, asking questions, making sure I was OK," she said, noting she never expected to ride in a Medevac after being hurt.

"It was a really weird experience for my first helicopter ride," she said.

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