Injured Grand Canyon hiker disputes claim that his friends abandoned him

An Apache Junction man who was rescued at the Grand Canyon sets the record straight and says his friends didn't abandon him.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 3:51 AM CDT
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/Gray News) - Bill Formanek is an experienced hiker whose adventures have taken him worldwide, but his recent trip to the Grand Canyon stands out for all the wrong reasons.

“I put my right arm out to kind of steady myself and my foot slipped,” Formanek said. “I went to the left, hit a boulder, and it dislocated the shoulder.”

Last Friday night, the 63-year-old Apache Junction man had to be airlifted out of the Grand Canyon after separating his shoulder during a hike with his friends.

According to Formanek, he hurt himself walking along a trail with one of his friends around 2 p.m. while their three other hiking partners were a few miles ahead.

The retired engineer told his friend to leave him and find the others, who had satellite tracking devices and could call for help.

“My thought was, the only chance of rescue was going to be when it was light out, so I was hoping he could get message out and I could get rescued before dark,” Formanek said.

That is precisely what happened.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter spotted the injured hiker at about 8:30 p.m. that night and flew him to safety.

The next day, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office posted about the incident on social media. The post stated that the four others “continued their backpack adventures” and “leaving the injured hiker behind.”

Formanek said that wasn’t the case and wants to set the record straight.

“It was very disheartening because they, in my view, had done everything possible and the right thing to get me rescued as quickly as possible,” Formanek said. “I was baffled. How did they come up with that story?”

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said they stand by its account of what happened.

The injured hiker is thankful for what deputies did to help rescue him, but he thinks there must have been miscommunication when he was interviewed.

“Some people will say you never leave a hiker alone,” Formanek said. “There’s always exceptions to the rule.”

Formanek hopes that sharing his story will remind hikers to always take precautions, including having a good cellphone or satellite tracking device.