SULPHUR, Okla. — When a 3-year-old boy from southern Oklahoma slipped on a hiking trail last month and fell off a cliff, his brother never hesitated, scrambling down the rocks to save his sibling.
“There’s really not any words for it honestly,” Amy Branom, 28, of Ada, said about the heroics of her 7-year-old son, Dakota Duke, at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, KXII-TV reported.
The boys were with their grandmother and older sister on Feb. 25, exploring Rock Creek Trail on Bromide Hill, according to The Oklahoman. The family’s dog stepped down onto a ledge, and 3-year-old Riley Duke reached out to grab the animal.
Instead, the boy slipped and fell down the 100-foot face of the cliff. Springing into action, Dakota slid down the rocks and stopped on some flat rocks near Rock Creek, where his younger brother had fallen, the newspaper reported.
Dakota jumped into the creek, pulling Riley’s head out of the water and waiting for help, The Oklahoman reported.
“I assume that Riley was going so fast down the hill, flipping and rolling, that he projected into the water,” Branom told the newspaper.
A call for help came in to park rangers at 5:34 p.m. CST, and the boys were rescued within 16 minutes, KXII reported.
“To find folks and get them to medical care all in a 16-minute time period, that’s not something you can do by yourself,” park spokesperson Megan Wilkins told The Oklahoman. “We very much appreciate all these folks that we work with on a day-to-day basis for helping anytime something happens in the park.”
Both boys suffered severe injuries. Dakota has been discharged from the hospital, but Riley remains on a ventilator in the intensive care until in stable condition. The younger boy’s injuries include a laceration on his forehead, two broken ribs, several face lacerations and damage to his frontal lobe, according to the newspaper.
“I’ve tried to tell (Dakota) over and over again, that you 100% have done the correct thing,” Branom told The Oklahoman. “You saved your baby brother. We’ll never be able to really thank him enough for what he did, honestly.”
Branom said her mother did not realize how dangerous the edge of the trail was, and that she did not remember seeing any signs.
Riley’s eyes remain swollen and he is unable to open them, but he is able to communicate with his family with nods or head shakes.
“We don’t know if he’s going to be playing T-ball next year or if we’re gonna be pushing him around in a wheelchair,” Branom told The Oklahoman. “We just don’t know.
“It doesn’t matter what the future looks like, as long as we have him.”