BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NEWFANE— Beverly S. Blewett, the 86-year-old woman who was rescued at the brink of Eighteen Mile Creek on Thursday afternoon, was released from the Erie County Medical Center emergency room on Thursday night and returned to her North Main Street home.
“I feel fine. I feel a little achey,” Blewett said Friday night. “It was quite an experience.” The mother of two had numerous phone calls and visits from Buffalo television stations after the story about her plight was published in the US&J.
The ground had given way under Blewett while she was raking leaves and she fell about 30 feet down the bank. Another 70 feet below was the creek.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I flipped. There was no more ground and down I went. I slid down on my fanny. I had no control. Fortunately, there was a tree limb and I grabbed it.”
Blewett grabbed the limb with both hands and she said that was a mistake. Holding on with two hands forced her to flip on her stomach and all the weight was on her arms. She shouted out for help.
Nancy Albee, who has been Blewett’s neighbor for more than 55 years, heard the cries for help about an hour after Blewett fell.
“I didn’t know where she was,” Albee said. “I looked over, and there she was. I told her I was going to get help, and called 911.”
Within minutes, helped arrived in the person of Capt. Lombardo of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Dept. and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Sal Caccamo. The officers were working on a joint operation and had just driven by the residence on Route 78.
Butch Albee wanted to see if he could do anything, but the officer told Nancy’s husband not to go down the bank.
Lombardo got a 50-foot length of rope from the patrol car and started to the edge of the creek bank where he saw Blewett about 30 feet down, clinging to a tree branch. The limb was preventing her from falling further and eventually into the creek.
”We thought we had no problem,” Blewett recalled one of the officers saying. “When we looked, we said there’s no way we’re going down there.”
According to the sheriff’s report, Caccamo tied one end of the rope to a large tree on the edge of the bank and made several attempts to throw the other end to Blewett. However, the rope was too light. Lombardo found the woman’s walking cane and tied it to the end of the rope. This gave just enough weight for Caccamo to throw the rope near the woman.
Blewett was able to grab the rope and was able to secure it around her waist. That enabled her to let go of the tree branch she had been holding on to. Miller Hose firefighters arrived and sent two of its members down the bank to attend to the woman.
Blewett was placed on a stokes basket and pulled up. She was taken to the Eastern Niagara Hospital-Newfane site helicopter pad and flown by Mercy Flight to ECMC. The Niagara County Technical Rescue Team also responded and assisted at the scene.
“They rushed to ECMC and I’m protesting all the time, ‘I am fine,’” Blewett recalled. “They kept me there to 7:30 p.m.”
When the doctors said she was fine, she replied, “I told you that all the time.”
Homes on North Main Street have short backyards, and there is a sharp drop-off before the cliff above Eighteen Mile Creek. The Blewett and Albee homes are diagonally across the street from Eastern Niagara Hospital - Lockport.
Blewett estimated that she tried for about one hour to get back up the embankment herself but was unable to do so. The landscape has changed over the years, she added.
“When my children were growing up, they were up and down to the creek like monkeys,” she said. “I used to go up and down for exercise.”