A Umatilla County cliff fall has left two men injured seriously and one man deceased over the 4th of July weekend.

A report from the Umatilla County Sheriff's Department brings sad news and a reminder that cliff climbing can be dangerous. The accident occurred on Friday, July 2nd at approximately 9 AM at Big Falls recreation area on the West Birch Creek.


Umatilla County Sheriff Office Dispatch received a 911 call from Kyler Carter (23) of Pilot Rock stating he and two friends, Cody Watson (21) and Braydon Postma (23) both of Pilot Rock, had been injured in a fall.

Here are details of the incident according to reports from the Umatilla County Sheriff's Department

The three men had been recreating at the Big Falls on West Birch Creek (a very steep rocky fall) south of Pilot Rock, Oregon, and had fallen off a ledge. The ledge was a 50-foot drop.

Kyler stated the fall had occurred around 9 pm the night before. He had been unable to get cell service at the location of the accident and had to climb back out and hike to a place he could call 911.

Cody and Braydon were still at the location they had fallen and Kyler reported they both had critical injuries.

Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (UMASAR) was activated and Pendleton Fire Department was dispatched, along with Lifeflight. Oregon Emergency Management was notified. Because of the nature of the injuries and the location, a hoist flight craft was requested.

Rik Mikals
Rik Mikals

UMASAR requested assistance from the U.S. Forest Service to see if any fire crews were in the area that could respond quickly.

UMASAR also contacted Union County Search and Rescue to mobilize their rope team. Umatilla County Sheriff’s deputies and their K-9 unit also responded.

A U.S. Forest Service short-haul helicopter from McCall, Idaho and an Oregon Army National Guard Black Hawk from Salem, Oregon were deployed for hoist capability.


A Forest Service eleven-man fire crew (with fire paramedic) was able to reach the location and provide initial assistance.

Upon arrival, Cody Gene Watson, a 21-year-old from Pilot Rock, was deceased and both Kyler Carter and Braydon Postma had significant injuries.

Additional First responders hiked into the location and a coordinated effort was made to plan the careful extraction of both Kyler and Braydon, who needed immediate medical assistance.

The Oregon Army National Guard Black Hawk team was able to extract both Kyler and Braydon and transport them to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon.

Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office deputies took over the death investigation. Members of UMASAR remained with the deceased overnight until around 10am this morning (July 3, 2021) when another Black Hawk crew returned to the scene and was able to assist in recovery. The body was turned over to Burns Mortuary.

Any further information on the condition of Kyler and Braydon is unknown at this time but Umatilla County Sheriff's Department is saying thank you to all the responders that assisted in this coordinated effort. Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office extends sincere condolences to the family of Cody Watson.

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