Friends help rescue injured woman

Feature Image
From left, John Jozkowski '11, Audrey Cerchiara '11, Jose Lopez and Ben Farrer, a PhD student at Binghamton, were hiking along the Virgin River when they turned into a side canyon to see a waterfall. Here, the river turns into a stream. After this photo was taken, they walked back down to the river and that is when they heard Wenge Zhu's calls for help.

A hike into Zion National Park this summer turned into a rescue mission when three friends from Binghamton University came to the aid of an injured woman.

John Jozkowski ’11 was in Utah, to study desert tortoises, when friends Audrey Cerchiara ’11 and Benjamin Farrer, a PhD student in political science at Binghamton, paid him a visit.

It was a typical August weekend at Zion, with nature enthusiasts exploring the 229 square-mile park. Cerchiara, Farrer, Jozkowski and his housemate, Jose Lopez, were hiking when they heard a man shouting.

Behind them was Wenge Zhu, an associate professor of Technology and Operations Management at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, calling for help. His wife, Wen Lin, had fallen in the river and suffered a serious cut under her knee.

“The wound was deep enough you could almost see the bone, and she was bleeding profusely,” Zhu said.

“Mr. Zhu caught John’s attention first, he was shouting and waving, but I didn’t hear him over the sound of the water,” Farrer said. “I noticed that John turned around, and when he started walking toward Mr. Zhu we all followed.”

The hikers were in the park’s Virgin River Narrows, an area difficult to navigate. After hearing how injured Lin was, the hikers assessed the terrain and made a decision.

“The canyon walls were too close together and too high, and the water was too fast, so it would have taken longer for the emergency services to get to us than for us to get to them,” Farrer said.

Their solution turned out to be a result of their Binghamton experience.

In their senior year, Cerchiara and Jozkowski lived with two teaching assistants for a class called Backcountry Medicine, in which students became certified to administer first aid in the wilderness when there is no immediate emergency help. The class was a popularly discussed topic among their friends.

“It would have been impossible for it not to rub off on us,” Farrer said. “And so mostly it helped in little ways, just knowing when a wound was bandaged properly, knowing to stay calm, etc. John was also a member of the Outdoor Pursuits club at Binghamton and that, together with knowing that Audrey had also been working in Grand Tetons National Park all summer, made me feel like we could figure it out.”

They agreed on a plan and divided the tasks among the group. Cerchiara carried most of the hiking equipment while Jozkowski and Lopez went ahead to pinpoint the slowest and shallowest areas of the river. In the meantime, Farrer and the Zhus carefully followed behind. To make sure Lin’s wound would not get soaked, she was carried where the trail crossed the river.

“It was Mr. Zhu and his wife who were the brave ones, she kept going even though she must have been in a lot of pain,” Farrer said. “She was a lot braver than I would have been. She also put my hiking skills to shame; we talked about how she could probably go faster on one leg than I could on two.”

It took two hours of hiking before Lin could be transported to an emergency room for medical attention. She suffered a subsequent infection and scarring, but has recovered.

“I’m really proud of my friends,” Farrer said. “They were the ones who really knew what they were doing and they were totally magnificent. I’m really glad we’ve all kept in touch since Binghamton.”

Zhu said that if it hadn’t been for the students, his wife’s condition would have been worse.

“It is truly reassuring for our country’s future to know that there are still so many caring young people who are so ready to lend their helping hands,” he said. “As a college professor, I wish I could think more in the perspective of not just helping my students to be prepared professionally, but also helping them to be prepared to live a life beyond their careers.”

– By Tiffany Moustakas, a junior majoring in English.