Stephen Christensen, 16, witnessed his friend, Tyler Pecheny, jump from the rock face on Applegate Lake last Friday. His parents, Tom and Gisella Christensen, hope that others will stop cliff jumping. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

Central Point teen remains critical after rock jumping mishap

A Central Point teen is struggling for his life in a Portland hospital nearly a week after suffering severe head and leg injuries while jumping off a rock at Applegate Lake.

Tyler Pecheny, a 16-year-old junior at Crater High School, remains on a ventilator after doctors placed him in a medically induced coma to treat his brain injury.

Pecheny's father said the fall that happened on June 17 shattered both of his son's ankles and caused severe damage to his brain.

"He's had some positive signs and then things change," David Pecheny said during a phone call from Oregon Heath & Science University in Portland. "He can't breathe on his own yet, but sometimes he will open his eyes or move an arm to give a thumbs up."

Pecheny was in good spirits Friday when he gathered some friends for a trip to Applegate Lake. He had just scored his first job and was looking forward to a good swim, his father said.

Accompanying him on the trek was his good friend Stephen Christensen. They had no way of knowing that in a few hours Christensen would be pleading with Pecheny not to dive off a high rock ledge near the intersection of Upper Applegate and Carberry Creek roads.

"He climbed way up there," Christensen said, pointing to a steep rock face more than 30 feet above the water. "We have jumped off the lower rocks, but never ones that high."

Christensen said his friend was being heckled by a group partying on a beach across the water from the rock ledge.

"They were yelling him to jump and calling him names," Christensen said. "I tried to talk him out of it."

Pecheny leapt off the rock and slammed into a few feet of water at the base of the ledge. Christensen was nearby and immediately dove into the water to help his buddy.

Pecheny was in obvious peril as Christensen pulled him from the water.

"He had a huge gash in his head and I could tell his legs were really damaged," Christensen said. "He wasn't responsive, so I put his head on a rock out of the water and gave him CPR."

Someone from the beach party sent flotation devices over and they hauled Christensen to dry land.

Christensen said a nurse who was on scene tried to stabilize Pecheny.

Pecheny woke about an hour after the fall, but was obviously in a shock.

"He started fighting us and yelling," Christensen said. "It took over an hour before the ambulance got here."

Pecheny was airlifted to Portland, where he underwent emergency surgeries. He remains in intensive care.

David Pecheny said he hopes people will learn from his son's injuries.

"Young people think they're immortal and take these chances," he said. "But you need to think about the consequences before you do some of these things like jumping off rocks."

Jackson County Fire District 3 spokesman Don Hickman said emergency crews deal with injured rock and bridge jumpers every summer.

"We don't advise jumping from any structures into rivers and lakes," Hickman said. "You never know what's just under the water."

Stephen's mother, Gisella Christensen, who is a medical assistant at Providence Medical Center, said she has warned the teens against jumping off the rock ledges. She is proud of her son's actions that day.

"He struggled in health class at school, but learned CPR there," she said. "The CPR might have helped save a life."

His father Tom Christensen said he grew up in the area and spent his youth driving off the rocks into the lake.

"I used to do it all the time, but now I'm totally against it," he said.

Stephen Christensen said he will never go rock jumping again.

"It's still hard on me to come up here to see the place where my buddy had that happen," he said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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