This Man’s Apple Watch Saved Him After He Fell off a Cliff, Broke His Back

Apple Watch Fall Detection
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There’s a lot of room for debate about how important consumer gadgets are to people’s lives, but in the midst of all of that, there’s little doubt that with its life-saving features, the Apple Watch is in a category all by itself.

A shiny new iPhone 11 Pro may be a “must have” for users who want to take great photos, but when it comes to calling 911, a $50 “feature phone” will do just as well. But there aren’t many situations where a Timex or Rolex watch can actually save your life in a crisis. On the other hand, we hear about this happening with the Apple Watch all the time.

The Apple Watch has included heart rate monitoring features since the very first model, which have already been credited with saving lives even in their more basic form, and these have only gotten better with last year’s Series 4 version adding an ECG app and the ability to detect atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Then there’s Apple’s Fall Detection feature, also added in the Series 4, which can not only detect hard falls, but actually go so far as to call emergency services for help — even when you’re completely unconscious or in a car accident. This is exactly the kind of scenario that was recently experienced by another Apple Watch user after he fell off a cliff.

“I’m Going to Die”

According to News 12 New Jersey, a local man, James Prudenciano, fell down a steep cliff while hiking, suffering three fractures in his back.

Prudenciano, 28, was hiking with his date, Paige Paruso, when they got lost in the woods and fell over some thorns onto a steep cliff. As the daylight diminished, they decided to take the risk of sliding down the cliff in the hopes of landing on solid ground at the bottom, only to discover that there was nothing below them but rocks along the Navesink River.

“We got to the bottom and that’s when it was life or death. I looked down and I noticed it was a straight drop to rocks and water.”

While both “hung on for their lives,” Paruso dropped into the river, suffering only minor injuries. While Prudenciano was still hanging on the edge of the cliff, his Apple Watch detected a “hard fall” and automatically called 911. On the call, Prudenciano was heard screaming, “I’m going to die” to the dispatcher, and as he later explained in an interview, “I really felt I was going to die. There was no way out of this for me. I said my last goodbyes.”

Prudenciano eventually fell into the river, but landed on a. rock, suffering three fractures in his back. In addition to the 911 call, his mother received three text messages letting her know that her son was in danger. Middletown police arrived to rescue the pair of hikers, placing them both on a passing boat and taking them to a pier where they were transported to Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center for treatment.

How to Make Sure Fall Detection is Enabled

It’s important to note that while Fall Detection is a great safety feature, Apple only enables it automatically for users who are over 65 years of age. Presumably, James Prudenciano enabled it manually on his Apple Watch, and he’s probably now very glad that he did.

The feature is available on the Apple Watch Series 4 or later, and in fact that feature alone could be a very good reason to upgrade. Here’s how to make sure it’s turned on:

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your paired iPhone
  2. Ensure the My Watch tab is selected from the bottom
  3. Scroll down to Emergency SOS and tap it.
  4. Look for the Fall Detection setting and ensure it’s switched on.

The setting can also be found directly in the Settings app on the Apple Watch in watchOS 6, under the SOS section.

Apple defaults to leaving the setting off for users under age 65 as it could be inadvertently triggered by high-impact workout activities. However, since the fall detection feature sounds an audible alert for 60 seconds before actually calling emergency services, giving you ample opportunity to cancel the call, there’s little risk from turning it on beyond a minor inconvenience, so we think this is more a case of Apple wanting to make sure users know what they’re in for once the feature is switched on.

As for James Prudenciano, he is expected to make a full recovery, and says that he still loves nature despite this incident, and while he’s not sure if he and Paige Paruso will have a second date, he is sure they’ll remain great friends.

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