MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — First responders near Taylors Falls are breathing a collective sigh of relief after a miraculous rescue netted a more-than-miraculous recovery.

They were called to Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls Sunday night to help someone who was hurt and unresponsive.

“Last night, when it was about pitch black when we got here, all you’re looking at is black and trees,” Chisago County Sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Jones said.

The challenge was locating the injured person.

“With my voice, the siren, the PA, we, within a few moments, were able to locate what looked like a cellphone light all the way up, about 100-or-so yards up from the highway,” Jones said.

Once he was located, first responders had to navigate tough terrain in darkness to get to 19-year-old Luke Zajac.

(credit: Luke Zajac/YouTube)

“There were some slips and trips, nothing major,” Taylors Falls Assistant Fire Chief Jake Vodenka-Reed said. “Everybody worked together, a big chain, to get the gear up there.”

They eventually reached the teen, who was more than 100 yards up from Highway 8.

“There was times where we were waiting for medics and stuff, and it was grabbing hands, you know, two, three of us slingshoting the person up while we’re holding on to trees because you couldn’t walk,” Jones said. “It flattens out, and it’s probably about a 10-foot plateau up there, and that’s where the victim was after he had fallen off of the ridge.”

Rescuers learned later Zajac is a well-know snowboarder who was making a video of snowboarding off the beaten path. His father told WCCO he overshot his landing, and the person with him was forced to call 911 for help.

“We were sliding, falling, I mean, just trying not to get hurt,” Jones said.

It took a cooperative effort between Chicago County Sheriff’s deputies, Taylors Fall and St Croix Falls fire departments, and Lakes Regional Ambulance services to make what seemed like an impossible rescue possible — with a good outcome.

Zajac’s father tells WCCO his son is doing well, and will likely be home Monday night. They are both thankful for the first responders.

Reg Chapman

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