HAIKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - An opihi picker is paralyzed after falling from a Maui cliff, but he feels blessed just to be alive after nearly drowning. Jacob Sadang, 38, was searching for opihi at a remote spot near Haiku on May 20. He said he usually climbs to the left, but this time decided to head right. That's when a loose rock came off in his hand, and he plunged 30 feet onto the tide pools below.
"I ended up face first in the water on the rocks. Like every time the water came up, I had to hold my breath and then the water went down, take another breath. I was trying my best for try climb out. I couldn't. I never know I really was paralyzed," said Sadang.
Huelo resident Ariel Gebb happened to be walking his dog about 200 yards away across the bay when he saw the accident.
"He fell backwards and upside down right onto his head and neck. I couldn't believe it. I said to myself, 'No, no, no, no.' I couldn't believe what I had just seen," said Gebb.
Once he raced over, he was shocked to discover that the injured man was a long-time friend. Gebb's relatives who live nearby called 911.
"I just kind of propped him up on the rocks a little further so his face wasn't in the water," said Gebb. "I knew I couldn't move him much because he had spinal injuries, but I didn't want him to drown either."
Fire rescue crews responded to the bottom of Kepani Road. They used the department's Air 1 helicopter to lift Sadang to a pasture where medics were waiting with an ambulance. Sadang underwent surgery at the Maui Memorial Medical Center for his broken neck. He is now recovering at Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center on Oahu with his family by his side.
"It's hard, especially when you see him. If you know him, he's such a strong person," said Danè Sadang, Jacob's sister. "
Sadang is grateful to everyone who helped with the rescue. His medical bills are covered, but his family is asking for prayers. He is able to move his arms a little and he is determined to walk again one day.
"I got a strong mind. I going get through this, but then yeah, just the support from everybody. They're there with me 100%," said Sadang.