The Dramatic Moment a Man Saved a Stranger from Plummeting Down a Cliff

After losing control of his car, below him lay a 30-foot drop and a busy road. Then a stranger intervened...

March-2017-heroes-SUV13 Courtesy Barry Kough/The Lewiston Tribune

In a close-up, the two men almost look as if they were posed by a Renaissance artist—one cradled in the other’s arms, a skyward, beatific expression on his face. But pull back on the photo and you’ll see the far more earthly explanation for the scene. One man is actually pulling the other through the window of an SUV that is perched perilously on a cliff 30 feet above a busy roadway.

Jason Warnock, then 29, is the man making the life-saving maneuver. He was driving in Lewiston, Idaho, in April 2015 when he came upon a fallen tree in the middle of the road. “I was like, What the heck?” he told kxly.com. Warnock craned his neck to peer up the side of a cliff. At the very top, where the tree should have been, was an SUV teetering on the edge, held back from plummeting to the road by a flimsy, heavily damaged chain-link fence. Looking inside the car, Warnock could see a panicked Matthew Sitko, 23, beating on the passenger-side window.

That’s when Warnock sprang into action. According to NBC News, he crossed a nearby pedestrian footbridge, scrambled up the cliff, and traversed an embankment to get to the vehicle. When Warnock got to the car, he tried breaking the window with a tool he had on him, only to realize that his smashing was shaking the car and might cause it to slip down the hill. He stopped and turned to calming Sitko enough to get him to open the window. “Give me your hand,” Warnock said, according to the KXLY report. “If this thing goes, I want to have a hold of you so I can at least snag you out of there.” Before reaching for the lifeline, Sitko had one request: “Can I grab my iPod?” Soon enough, Warnock had freed both man and his machine.

According to the Lewiston police chief, the accident was caused when Sitko, who suffered only minor injuries, lost control of his car. For his part, Warnock insisted he came to Sitko’s aid for one simple reason: “I just did what anyone would do.” But there may be another, more spiritual, explanation. After the accident, the two men sat down near the car waiting for the police to arrive. “I started reading the Bible last night,” Sitko told Warnock. Warnock’s reply: “That’s great. Maybe God put me here at the right time. Maybe it’s meant to bring you closer to him.”

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.