Naperville woman seriously hurt in rappelling fall in Utah

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Brittany Fisher, cross country runner at Utah State.

She plummeted to the unforgiving earth from a height of five stories while rappelling down the side of a cliff, some 30 minutes from civilization and a good two hours before the sun would begin rising over the Utah desert.

She sustained a serious spinal cord injury that has left her paralyzed, and with two broken legs.

But her parents, brother and sister are relieved and grateful Naperville Central High School alumna Brittany Fisher suffered no brain damage, and are confident their “fighter” will ultimately recover completely from her harrowing fall.

“We video-chatted, and she was conscious, and had no trouble talking at all,” said Braden Fisher, Brittany’s older brother, from the driveway of the family’s home in Naperville.

“It’s amazing. She had no head injuries of any sort.”

The siblings attend Utah State University in Logan, where he is majoring in finance and she in elementary education. Parents Bryan and Kaaren Fisher live here with their youngest child, Laura Fisher, who is a senior at Naperville Central.

Brittany Fisher was listed in serious condition at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, where she was flown via rescue helicopter after her fall. A hospital spokeswoman, citing federal privacy laws, declined to discuss her injuries.

Braden Fisher revealed his sister suffered a serious injury to her spine.

“Currently, she is paralyzed, and only has a little sensation in her toes,” he said. She has “no feeling in her lower legs.”

Brittany Fisher also broke both of her legs. She underwent 10 hours of spinal surgery and had a steel rod implanted in her right leg on Monday, her brother said. Her left foot also might require surgery.

“She’s in (intensive care) right now” and will be placed in a full-body cast, Braden Fisher said. She is likely to spend the foreseeable future in a rehabilitation center, he said.

The incident occurred shortly after 3 a.m. Monday at Cougar Cliffs, a popular rappelling site on the northern edge of the city of St. George, Utah. The cliffs at their peak are about 80 feet high, St. George police Capt. James Van Fleet said Wednesday.

Rescuers were called to the area by the friend with whom Brittany Fisher had gone rappelling. Braden Fisher said the man “had to climb back up the cliff to get to his car and his cell phone to call 911” after his sister’s fall.

Van Fleet said Brittany Fisher was apparently “unable to control her descent,” and might have lost control of her rope. Braden Fisher said she was “about halfway down the cliff when she became unstable and free-fell from 50 or 60 feet,” suffering a second-degree rope burn on one of her hands in the process.

Neither Van Fleet nor Braden Fisher knew why Brittany Fisher and the man had decided to go rappelling in the middle of the night.

Brittany Fisher is a member of the Utah State University women’s cross country team. She earned academic honors there in 2010.

She was a three-time letter-winner in distance running and hurdles while attending Naperville Central, and was named all-conference in track and field. She qualified for sectional competition in 2007, and had a “personal best” that year of 5:25 in the 1,600-meter race.

Brittany and Braden Fisher had been away from the Utah State campus on spring break. “I had a friend getting married this weekend, and she was supposed to compete in a track meet in Arizona,” he said.

Braden Fisher said he was staying at a friend’s house in Provo, Utah, when his father sent him a text message concerning his sister. “It didn’t sound too bad at the time,” he said.

Bryan and Kaaren Fisher flew to Las Vegas to be with their daughter after her fall. Braden and Laura Fisher remain at home.

Braden Fisher expressed confidence his sister will walk again and be completely recovered from her injuries, possibly within a year’s time.

“She’s very comfortable with the outdoors, and a very outdoor person,” Braden Fisher said. “She’s very optimistic, very high-spirited.”

“And if you talk to the people who know her, she’s a fighter.”

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