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Rescuer Calls Woman’s Survival in 600-Foot Tumble ‘Miraculous’

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

A Bolivian woman who survived a 600-foot fall from a mountaintop observation deck was hospitalized in serious but stable condition Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

Sun Hwa Kim, 52, suffered back, neck and head injuries but no broken bones Monday when she plunged from Grunt’s Overview in the San Jacinto Mountains, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

She had been stranded for hours on the slope before rescuers carried her to safety about 2 a.m., said Tim Jones, a spokesman for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which carries tourists 6,000 feet up to the deck and an adjoining restaurant and recreation area.

Kim, reportedly a Korean-speaking Bolivian citizen who lives in Los Angeles, was in critical condition at Desert Regional Medical Center. But “she is awake, alert, oriented and talking with us through an interpreter,” a nursing supervisor said.

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“It’s really miraculous she’s alive,” said Ken Piner of the Palm Springs Mounted Police. “When I got the call, I thought we would be taking a dead body out.”

The observation deck is surrounded by a 4-foot steel safety railing. Tramway employees said Kim had climbed past the fence and warning signs before being told by an employee to return. She obeyed, but a few minutes later, again climbed outside the fence.

Kim went partway down the hill before slipping on some loose gravel, said Jones, who first made contact with the woman.

“I kept telling her to stay put--not to move,” Jones said.

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When Kim tried to move, she fell another 400 feet and was knocked unconscious for 10 to 15 minutes, Jones said.


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