Ammon McNeely Discusses BASE Jumping Accident and Positive Prognosis

10/31/2013 – Ammon McNeely's prognosis is good, despite experiencing a horrific BASE jumping accident where he seriously injured his foot and leg. (Read the full report here and watch a video McNeely shot of himself right after the accident hereWarning: The video is graphic.) We spoke with McNeely only two days after the incident and right after surgery, and in character, he was thoroughly positive.

“I’m trying to keep positive, and I’m pretty psyched on what’s happening so far. When I woke up the morning after surgery—they did surgery all night—I looked down and my foot was still there. I was able to wiggle my toes, and I almost cried,” McNeely said. His foot was shattered in the fall and while it was bleeding profusely, McNeely tied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding; at the time, he was convinced he would lose his foot. Thanks to the fast action of his partners Andy, Brent, Dave, and other Moab locals, as well as search-and-rescue teams and the treating doctors, that is not the case.

Already, he has gone through three surgeries, the first happened when he got to the hospital, and it lasted all night. Doctors are hopeful about saving his foot, though it’s not entirely in the clear, due to possible infection, which could occur at any point. McNeely has some nerve damage that will prevent him from getting the feeling back in part of his foot near the big toe, but he hasn't lost any motor skills or mobility.

The second and third surgeries were for cleaning the injured area, where the doctors removed the dead tissue in his wound to prevent infection. McNeely says the next step is for the doctors to use metal parts to screw his tibia back together; they already plated his fibula, replacing it and putting in an external fixator, which is a metal-framed brace that is positioned on the outside of the limb and connects through it with pins. The surgery to plate McNeely’s fibula is scheduled for this Saturday or Sunday.

Down the road, McNeely will need yet another surgery to fix the hole in his leg where the skin and muscle is completely gone. A plastic surgeon will have to go in and patch the hole, ideally with material from the surrounding area, or from his thigh or abdomen. Despite the intimidating course of recovery, McNeely remains hopeful, “100% [recovery] is probably going to be like nine months, but I’m a really fast healer so I’m hoping for sooner than that.”

In reflecting on the accident, McNeely has realized a couple of things he could have done differently. With new brake lines on his canopy, McNeely would have tested them on a more overhanging object that he has jumped from before to gain familiarity with the new and updated equipment. He realized that the combination of the new brake lines and a new exit definitely contributed to his accident. “The deal is,” McNeely said, “when you’re doing these activities, and you introduce something different or on the next level, you introduce that difference just a little at a time, maybe one at a time…I just wouldn’t have put as many differences in the equation.”

McNeely credits the people he was with for saving his life. He deeply thanks Andy Lewis, Brent Cain, Scotty Rogers, Hunter, David Steiner, Grand County SAR and EMS, St. Mary’s flight crew, and his mother and family. “These guys saved me from losing my foot and possibly my life,” he said.

Despite the severity of his accident, McNeely has full intentions of returning to BASE jumping. He says, “It’s like anything else, like rock climbing—if I didn’t think it was worth the risk in the first place, I wouldn’t be doing it, so I’m not going to hide under a rock and be afraid of BASE jumping. I knew the possibility that this could happen…I’m going to jump on the horn when I’m ready and take it slow from there. It’s who I am and I can’t change that.”



Previous Comments

hi may name is eli belokopitov i had the same exident in israel 2.10.2013.

eli belokopitov - 11/16/2013 4:30:37

Hey Ammon, I find this a very interesting conversation. I hate to dig into you personal situation but will you really have the income to pay for this surgery? If so, that is friggin awesome that you are making so much off your movie, book and art. I will say I have a bit of a problem if the public is picking up part of the tab and you had an opportunity to sell your video for 20K but didn't because it wasn't your style. Hope you have a speedy recovery.

D.F. - 11/07/2013 8:42:07

Hey Ammon, Hope you're healing, and staying positive. Would love to support you by purchasing your art... how would I do that?

J.C. - 11/04/2013 1:36:41

I find Chris's question also interessting. So Ammon does this mean you are paying cash for the surgeries? or how does that work? are Sponsors helping out? Hoping the best for you and your leg man, but this is certainly a situation every climber or adventurer has had in the back of their mind, when taking a risk with no insurrance.

Josh - 11/04/2013 4:34:00

Chris, I'm planning on writing a book and have a film coming out that is going to generate plenty of money (Assault on El Cap) I'm also an artist and make great money selling my paintings. I usually have insurance but it just ran out and was in the process of of going with another company, bad timing. It's not my style to let someone "foot" the bill, haha. I also could have sold that footage for around 20k, also not my style. Thanks for the question and hope you're interested in buying a copy of my writings or paintings. Cheers, Ammon

Ammon McNeely - 11/02/2013 5:57:19

Bummer of a situation. I am very impressed with how calm he was after the accident. Without sounding too harsh I am interested to know how he plans to take care of his medical bills. Planning for an injury and subsequent recovery seems to be just one more logistic that someone needs to take into consideration when playing at this level. Ammon's, Climbing Mag, please print something about the contingency plan for an injury like this. Is it medical insurance, short/long term disability insurance, cash out of pocket, let the rest of the paying public pick up the tab? I am interested to know and think it could be could for some of the other chargers out there to consider.

chris - 11/02/2013 5:07:03

When i was still hanggliding the rule was only change one thing at a time! And I wish you a complete recovery. Harm van der Veen , the Netherlands

Harm van der Veen - 10/31/2013 8:08:27

I want Ammon's lead head. Best wishes on knockin' that 9 months down to 6!

Ryan - 10/31/2013 4:14:04