A boulder or boulders fell Sunday at The Grotto, injuring three people at the popular climbing spot on a side of Table Mountain outside Jamestown, and personnel from Cal Fire, the county fire department, the sheriff's office, county ambulance, and at least one medevac helicopter crew responded to do three hoist rescues.

The rockfall happened sometime Sunday afternoon, according to social media posts and follow up posts from Tuolumne County Fire, Tuolumne County Ambulance, and PHI Air Medical.

Three people, one with serious injuries and two with moderate injuries, needed medical attention and evacuation, according to multiple accounts of what transpired.

Multiple fire and law enforcement personnel responded to the Table Mountain trailhead in motor vehicles. Other rescuers and medical personnel arrived in helicopters.

Rescuers on the ground scrambled up into The Grotto, a boulder-strewn spot next to slowly eroding cliffs where people often climb with and without ropes and climbing hardware. Rescuers used a backboard and a metal-cage stretcher called a litter to help evacuate at least one of the victims.

Photos and video posted to Instagram by Tuolumne County Ambulance with the music soundtrack “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons showed a helicopter pilot maneuvering close to the Table Mountain cliffs, and downdrafts from the chopper blowing full-grown oaks to and fro, while helicopter crew members used a metal cable to hoist victims up into the hovering airship.

PHI Air Medical staff said there was teamwork with Tuolumne County Ambulance and Cal Fire Copter 404 Air Attack personnel to extract one patient from the remote accident scene and bring the patient to a rendezvous point where they received further critical care.

A helicopter landing zone was set up to transfer the three victims to waiting air ambulance staff and ground ambulance staff. Further information about what transpired Sunday and the medical conditions of the three injured people was not immediately available Monday.

Some property owners on Shell Road and Table Mountain in recent months have expressed anger that parking at the popular Table Mountain trailhead is out of control, especially on weekends.

On March 27, a visitor fell at or near The Grotto on Table Mountain. Fire and ambulance vehicles responded, and a fire engine had to push a visitor's car out of the way to get through the gate and go to the rescue scene.

In early April, property owners in the area told The Union Democrat newspaper similar incidents occur at least once each spring-summer-fall season.

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors is expected to address the issue Tuesday at a public meeting, where it will consider adopting a resolution to restrict roadside parking along about a half-mile stretch of Shell Road.

Shell Road is county-maintained and the only access road to the Table Mountain trailhead, which is managed by a federal agency, according to county staff. 

Trailhead parking overflow has been a recurring problem, and sometimes encroaches onto the road, creating obstacles to emergency vehicle access, county staff said. The result is a public safety issue, as emergency, fire and medical vehicles must be able to reach residents, people on the trail, and people at Table Mountain when accidents happen.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.net or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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