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CBS 2 Exclusive: Hiker Talks About Rescue From Cliff By NYPD

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Members of the NYPD Aviation Unit rescued a hiker with a broken ankle from a cliff near the Hudson River in New Jersey this past weekend.

CBS 2 talked exclusively with the woman, who said the video showing her rescue was scary to watch.

Amanda Graham, 36, was hiking with relatives Sunday afternoon when she slipped and tumbled down a cliff, landing about 200 feet from the ground on the Palisades, two miles north of Alpine, N.J., CBS 2 reported.

“My cousin swore to me that it was a nice easy trail; it would be no problem,” Graham said. “That was not the case.”

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the trail indeed caused big problems.

“My foot literally just skipped; slid right off, and when it went over the edge of the rock, it turned like that and cracked. There was a really loud snap,” Graham said. “My aunt who was about 20 feet in front of me thought it was a tree breaking.”

Graham’s aunt also described the horror.

“She just kind of slipped two or three feet and we heard a snap,” Graham’s aunt Linda Cancro told CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport.

Unable to move from a position 200 feet up from the bottom of the cliff, Graham called for help.

A photo showed responding Piermont volunteer firefighters and Good Samaritans carrying Graham on a stretcher out of the woods to be airlifted.

“It was pretty steep,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse than it was.”

Members of the NYPD Aviation Unit flew a helicopter alongside the steep cliff and hovered about 50 feet above the woman. NYPD pilot Officer Seth Levinstein said his team had little room for error.

“We had this high cliff, or rock wall, at about a 70-degree slope,” he said. “We had trees in front of us; trees behind us.”

Officer Edgar Burroughs of the Aviation Unit was lowered to her.

“We were battling, you know, mud, slippery rocks, and we were 200 feet above the Hudson River,” Burroughs explained. “She was calm, which really helped us out. If she had been frantic, it would have been very difficult to lift someone into a helicopter.”

It was Burroughs’ very first aviation rescue.

“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie. I was nervous,” he said. “But once you’re there, there’s no turning back.”

Graham was placed in a rescue basket and taken to Nyack Hospital, where she was listed in stable condition with a broken left ankle.

“We didn’t know exactly what we had, and with the terrain and other factors it was certainly the most difficult rescue I’ve been a part of,” Co-Pilot Derin Devuno said.

Graham said looking back at the experience in video form was terrifying.

“It was a lot scarier watching the video than it was, the actual event happening,” she said. “When I saw myself spinning like that, that was pretty freaky.”

Graham said looking back on her ordeal, she has one regret.

“My biggest disappointment is that I was flat on my back in the chopper so I didn’t get to see the scenery,” she said.

Graham was set to undergo surgery on her broken ankle on Tuesday. She was expected to be back on her feet in six to eight weeks.

On Monday, Graham praised the men who saved her.

“She just thanks everybody and is so appreciative of everyone that helped,” Cancro said.

Seven members of the Aviation Unit participated in the rescue.

Graham said she plans to go hiking again, but she said next time, she will be more cautious about her cousin’s recommendations.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)