Phil Pesheck, director of BHSU Public Safety, shakes the hand of BHSU student Preston Knobloch as he presents Knobloch and Alexis Venables (left) with the BHSU Lifesaving Award. Knobloch and Venables saved the life of Alex Wooden (right) during a hike in Spearfish Canyon this fall.
Two students at Black Hills State University saved the life of their friend this fall while hiking in Spearfish Canyon. Preston Knobloch, applied health sciences major from Sioux Falls, and Alexis Venables, art major from Sartell, Minn., were recently recognized by BHSU with a Lifesaving Award.
Just two weeks after meeting and moving into their residence hall at BHSU, Preston and Alex Wooden set off to hike Devil’s Bathtub in Spearfish Canyon, a trail known for multiple creek crossings and natural waterslides. Alexis, also a BHSU student, joined the roommates for the adventure.
While climbing the rock walls at Devil’s Bathtub, Alex accidentally slipped and fell 45 feet to the rocks below, sustaining numerous injuries.
Preston and Alexis responded immediately and provided emergency, lifesaving assistance. While Preston remained at the scene with his roommate, Alexis ran back to the highway, flagged down a motorist and instructed him to call 911 as soon as he had a cell signal.
Alexis returned to the accident scene and waited with Alex and Preston an additional two hours for rescuers to arrive. Rescue personnel took Alex from the trail to an awaiting ambulance. He was taken to Spearfish Regional Hospital for stabilization, and was then transported to Rapid City Regional where he underwent seven hours of surgery.
Alex sustained significant facial injuries in the accident: compound fractures of both wrists, significant knee and hip injuries and a severed thoracic artery. He goes to physical therapy three times a week, and will have one more surgery on his left arm to remove a plate.
John Ginther, associate director of Residence Life at BHSU, said the BHSU community is grateful to Preston and Alexis for their quick thinking and care of their fellow student.
“The Black Hills are known for their beauty and the people who inhabit them. We take care of one another, and the students at BHSU are no exception,” said Ginther. “Preston and
Alexis embody everything that BHSU stands for and hopes to instill in its students – critical thinking skills, the ability to take decisive action, determination, innovation and problem solving, and a need to help others.”
Phil Pesheck, director of Public Safety at BHSU, presented Preston and Alexis with the award. Emergency responders and personnel who assisted in the event were also present during the awards presentation, which took place Dec. 2 during halftime at the men’s basketball game.
“By their immediate actions, under difficult and extraordinary circumstances, these BHSU students demonstrated exceptional courage, presence of mind and swift action. Their team work and selfless actions are to be commended,” said Pesheck.
Alex is currently living in Cody, Wyo., while he recovers, but traveled back to Spearfish for the award presentation. He hopes to resume studying psychology at BHSU this fall.
“I want to say thank you to Preston and Alexis. They truly deserve this award and I’m glad they’re receiving this recognition,” he said. “They saved my life.”