May 26, 2018
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63-year-old Canton woman rescued, hospitalized after fall down cliff behind Mexico Walmart

By Terry Karkos, Sun Journal

MEXICO, Maine — A Canton woman who tumbled 80 to 100 feet down an embankment to the edge of the Androscoggin River behind Walmart on Tuesday was airlifted to a Lewiston hospital.

Barbara Cormier, 63, suffered a fractured leg and hip, rescue officials said.

Strapped into a litter basket by a rope rescue team, Cormier was pulled up the cliff by several Mexico and Rumford firefighters and placed in a Med-Care Ambulance at about 6:30 p.m.

She was taken to the Rumford Hospital helipad, placed aboard a waiting LifeFlight helicopter and flown to Central Maine Medical Center with injuries that were not life threatening, Mexico police Lt. Roy Hodsdon said.

Hodsdon said Cormier’s boyfriend picked her up in Canton earlier and took her to Walmart to shop.

At some point, he said, Cormier walked out with her groceries and was putting them in the car when gusting winds blew away some bags.

She chased after them, got near the cliff and fell over at about 3:50 p.m., Hodsdon said. No one knew where she was, he said.

Hodsdon was called to the store to look for a woman who disappeared. He said store employees were searching the parking lot, while other employees searched the back of the store and behind it.

“We had no idea at that time that she had gone down over the banking,” he said.

He radioed for help from Dixfield officer Eric Bernier and had him search along Route 2. Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant also stopped by to help.

About two hours later, Hodsdon said he and a store manager were checking surveillance video to see where she had gone when she left the store.

“We watched her go through the parking lot to the vehicle,” he said. “She was loading groceries and the wind caught some bags and was blowing them, and she was chasing them and she got close to the embankment edge and she fell down over the edge.”

The manager and Hodsdon ran out the back door, looked down and spotted Cormier sitting near the river.

“She was at the bottom, about 6 feet from the river,” Hodsdon said.

The manager, who Hodsdon said he didn’t know, carefully descended and reached Cormier first.

“She was conscious and breathing and talking,” Hodsdon said. “She really had no complaint of pain when I got there. I asked her if she was OK and she said her right leg was sore.”

Cormier told Hodsdon she had hit her head on the way down “and she just rolled over and over and over, and she wasn’t in any complaint of pain from her head, but it was from her leg,” he said.

“Hypothermia was our major concern, given how long she had been down there on the ground, but she did have a jacket on and she was wearing long johns, so that really helped,” Hodsdon said.

He radioed a county dispatcher in Paris, who in turn sent Mexico and Rumford firefighters and Med-Care at 4:58 p.m.

Mexico fire Chief Gary Wentzell radioed for Rumford’s rope rescue team.

Ropes were quickly set up using Rumford’s Rescue 1 firetruck as the anchor.

Rope Rescue Team members Deputy Chief Richard Coulombe and Lt. Rob Dixon readied to haul Cormier up.

”I couldn’t believe she wasn’t complaining of pain,” said Wentzell, who also descended to help. “We knew she would when they moved that leg, so they gave her some pain medication.”

At 5:54 p.m., the rope team, Hodsdon, firefighters and Med-Care crewmen began to lift Cormier.

“It was a climb to get her up the bank,” Hodsdon said.

“She’s lucky they had that video, because nobody would have ever heard her calling for help from way down there,” Wentzell said.

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