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ADV NewsSmartwatch Credited With Saving Rider’s Life After Falling Off Cliff

Smartwatch Credited With Saving Rider’s Life After Falling Off Cliff

Rider reportedly fell about 150-feet down and was found in critical condition.

Published on 02.10.2023
Utah rider falls of cliff saved by smartwatch

A rider exploring the off-road trails in Utah’s Warner Valley open use area was saved by his smartwatch’s crash detection feature after a potentially deadly fall from one of the region’s legendary red rock cliffs. The area, which is known for challenging terrain, including popular features like Sand Mountain and Cliffs of Insanity, gets its fair share of rescue calls, but having a wristwatch alert first responders is a pretty novel event.

The device sent a “crash trigger” alert to the local 911 dispatch in Hurricane, Utah, around 10 a.m. last Saturday. The fire department quickly sent first responders out toward the coordinates to assess the situation and while enroute they received word that a witness had called in to say he had seen a man and his motorcycle fall from a cliff in the same area. 

Utah motorcyclist falls of cliff saved by smartwatch

What the witness described wasn’t some whiskey throttle cliff top incident like the one we saw a while back when a rider rode off a 100 foot cliff and lived to tell about it. Instead, the onlooker told local authorities the rider had pulled up to the cliff’s edge and put his foot down as if to take in the view, but found no purchase. Instead of having a rest, the bike and rider toppled right off the sheer cliff, falling approximately 50 feet, and then tumbling another 80-100 feet down a steep rocky slope.


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Ouch, right? And on so many levels. The unfortunate circumstance of dropping or nearly dropping your bike when you put a boot down uneven or slippery trail surfaces has happened to most riders, but doing it off the edge of a cliff is next level bad luck. 

And while the mishap was witnessed and eventually phoned in from the area which had limited cellular service, first responders were already enroute thanks to the immediate action from the rider’s smartwatch. It’s not clear which brand of watch the rider was wearing, though local reporting called it an Apple Watch. There are several other watches that will perform the same service however, including several models from Garmin. 

As you’d imagine the rider suffered extensive injuries, and because of his location on the steep, scree-laden slope a helicopter was unable to land in close proximity. Instead, it took rescue crews on the ground four hours to stabilize and hoist the rider to a place where an air ambulance could take him onboard. He was then transported to a hospital in nearby Saint George in critical condition but an update from the sheriff’s office indicated he was improving and expected to recover. 

Utah motorcyclist falls of cliff saved by smartwatch

While human error persists our devices are thankfully getting smarter each year. In addition to smartwatches detecting falls and alerting rescue services, Apple’s iPhone 14 series phones are now equipped with the brand new crash detection feature, as well as its Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE (2nd generation), and Apple Watch Ultra. The technology behind the new feature uses advanced gyroscope and accelerometer readings to detect sudden deceleration or other abrupt movements. Apple also says in the case where there is no cellular or wi-fi coverage, as was possible in this area of Utah, the iPhone will attempt to contact emergency services using Emergency SOS via satellite where available. And in the near future, thanks to SpaceX, even more smartphones will be able to access satellite connectivity in case of emergencies that occur outside of cellular coverage areas at no additional cost to the user.   

Utah motorcyclist falls of cliff saved by smartwatch

And while in the case of the Warner Valley motorcycle rider incident the crash detection smartwatch feature was a true lifesaver, the technology is causing some headaches in other adventure sport destinations. In Colorado’s ski country for example, overwhelmed 911 dispatchers say they have received up to 50 false alerts per day from the smart devices from skiers and snowboarders just rolling around in the snow as per usual. 

So many lessons: A smartwatch or phone can save your life. But if you take a tumble and are okay, make sure to cancel the alert. And probably most important? Do check for a solid surface before you put a foot down…especially on the side of a ginormous cliff.

Photos courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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