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Folsom's China Wall victim seeks to end jumping

By: Laura Newell, Telegraph Staff Writer
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After a horrific plunge, one man is telling his story to teach others that jumping at China Wall is dangerous. Anthony Smith-Garcia learned in a second how one wrong step can change a life forever. Smith-Garcia, 20, grew up in El Dorado Hills. He said he always strove for the best in athletics and academics. He was training to be in the Air Force. On July 28, 2011, he jumped 60 feet at the bluff known as China Wall in Folsom, injuring both of his feet, leaving him unable to walk. China Wall, a popular jumping spot, is located near Folsom Boulevard and Iron Point Road at Lake Natoma, downstream from Folsom Lake. “A friend and I went to China Wall last summer to have a good time,” Smith-Garcia said. “We had been jumping all day from the bluffs. There were about 20 people there with us jumping off the rocks and a rope swing. “For the last jump, I wanted to climb off the tree to add about 20 feet,” Smith-Garcia said. “When I climbed onto the branch, there were a lot of fire ants that spooked me. I started to hesitate and stepped off the branch rather than jumping. I hit the rock at the bottom (near the river water) and pushed off into the water. The impact made my knees hit my chest and knocked the wind out of me. … Then I noticed my feet felt weird. I looked down and saw my right foot was severed off and the back of my left heel was completely gone.” Moments later, friends jumped in to help. “People at the top of the bluff started throwing shirts and belts to us, and they wrapped both of my legs (to stop the bleeding),” Smith-Garcia said. That’s when the Folsom Fire Department arrived. “All that time I was thinking, ‘Wow, this sucks,’” he said. “It finally caught up to me that I’ve been doing this jump for years, and this finally happened.” After arriving at UC Davis Trauma Center, Smith-Garcia said he was in so much pain all he could do was moan. Folsom Fire Department paramedics said when they respond to China Wall, they know to expect the worst. The crew that day included Joe Saunders, engineer and EMT, Kalei Silva, firefighter and paramedic, and Capt. Phil Challinor, a paramedic. “Whenever we get a call from China Wall, we go in expecting something very significant,” said Challinor, the boat operator that day. “We know it will be gory, disabling and possibly fatal. We know the spectrum will be from bad to super bad.” Silva said the most important thing, is to get the patient out of the water to avoid drowning. “When we arrived out at Anthony’s scene, we couldn’t just walk up and pick him up because of the location,” Challinor said. “We have to get to them by boat.” He said people in these life-threatening situations often only see their perspective. “The patient’s perspective gets longer, so 30 seconds can feel like 30 minutes because the patient is thinking this is how I’m going to die,” Challinor said. “They see the ‘destructive injury’ like his foot and focus on that. But in reality, he could have broken his back, spine or had internal bleeding. So we treat for the worst thing that can happen.” He said on average there are three calls per year at all the jump locations in Folsom, including China Wall. He said there are probably more that aren’t reported. “At China Wall, we have seen fatalities, broken necks and broken bones, including arms and legs,” Challinor said.