‘I’ve been through it. It’s not fun’: Injured teen shares warning after Eno River cliff-jumping accident

July 24, 2018

A Clayton teen injured a week ago at the Eno River Rock Quarry said Monday that people should learn from her experience and avoid jumping into the water-filled quarry.

Fifteen-year-old Brooke Pearce broke four ribs and suffered a pneumothorax, or an air pocket outside her lungs, following the July 15 accident and spent eight days at Duke University Hospital.

Pearce was with her older siblings at the quarry to take advantage of making the 25-foot jump into the popular swimming hole.

“I jumped off of it the first time, and it hurt, but it wasn’t that bad, and I wanted to do it again,” she said.

Looking off the rock cliff the second time up, however, was a bit nerve-wracking.

“My heart was racing. Finally I was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to do it,’ but I got really scared because I was looking down,” she said. “I tried stopping myself. That was a bad idea, and I ended up falling, and I remember looking down and seeing a tree trunk coming out of the side of the [rock] wall. I tried grabbing it, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I landed on it.”

Pearce said she was dangling by her bathing suit above a pile of rocks at the bottom of the cliff.

Cody Westphal, her 22-year-old brother, jumped into action.

“We just heard a scream, looked over, and she was hanging there. I swam over to her and started to do what I can,” said Westphal, a Marine. “She was definitely scared. You could see it in her face.

“Staying calm is 95 percent of the fight, and it’s not going to help her having everybody freak out around her,” he said. “So, there has to be one person staying calm and keeping everyone else calm around her. Otherwise, she’s just going to keep freaking out.”

“My siblings were telling me not to fall asleep or anything. Just to stay awake, keep breathing,” Pearce said. “I just remember wanting to get down and being in pain.”

Pearce’s mother, Rhonda Pearce, said she’s thankful Westphal and others were there to help.

“Praise God they were there,” she said.

The quarry is a popular spot with locals, but Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said it’s not open to the public for swimming.

“It is posted (that) there are no lifeguards of any kind. As tempting as it may be to go swimming here on hot days, we wish folks wouldn’t put themselves at risk,” Blackwood said.

Two people have drowned there since 2007, and Eno River State Park officials have said they often receive emergency calls from people who were hurt after jumping off the cliff.

Brooke Pearce and her mother said cliff-jumping into the quarry isn’t worth the risk.

“I hear that it’s popular, but I don’t think I’d want to go out there and risk myself if I were thinking about it,” Rhonda Pearce said. “It was a lot to go through.”

“If you’re going to do it, you’re risking your life, probably,” Brooke Pearce said. “I would recommend not to do it because I’ve been through it, and it’s not fun, and I could’ve died.”

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