Hi DMan, I wrote an email to my friends last night on the incident:
I wrote a little accident report partly to record what happened, but also to help collect my thoughts. some of you may find it helpful. Stay safe.
Spang and I were involved in a rescue today when a climber in his early 20s decked off of Child's Play (5.5) at Cathedral Ledge. We had just come down off of Recluse at the North End and were packing up around 2:30pm. A party had finished Child's Play, the line directly to the right of Recluse and were descending via rappel from a tree on the North End belay ledge. The first climber down had improperly thrown the ropes such that one side of the rappel was about 25 ft off the ground. He rappelled just past the bulgy ledge about midway up Child's Play when the short end of the rope ran through his device and he fell to the ground, landing on his back. I inspected the rappel device; he had extended his rappel device and backed it up with a prussick, but both of these failed when one end, unknotted, slipped through.
My guess is that he fell about ~25-30ft, landing on the ground and a large downed tree trunk. He suffered serious lower back injuries, along with leg, arm, neck, and other injuries. He remained conscious the entire time, though in a lot of pain. We along with all of the other climbers around North End were able to respond immediately, including an Eastern Mountain Sports guide, an EMT, WFR, and any number of other qualifications I was glad relieved to have on hand. Within 15-20 minutes of the fall, emergency services arrived, followed by SAR. He was stabilized, placed on a backboard, and littered out by everyone by hand via the trail. He was in the ambulance by 3:30ish. All of the surrounding climbers and hikers were extremely helpful and the rescue was incredibly efficient and well done.
I've never been that close to a climbing accident before. It sucks that it takes an accident to reinforce shit you already know you should do, but always tie knots in the rope. There are very few reasons not to. I had rappelled to the ground just minutes before the accident, I did not tie knots in the rope, for the same reasons that these climbers cited: "its a short route, i've done the rap before, i know the rope is long enough..." Fortunately, I checked that I had my middle mark at the rings. These guys, for whatever reason, today, did not. One of the climbers friend's had mentioned that they had had a recent conversation about tying knots, and that he was normally a very safe climber. It's easy to miss these simple checks, especially when it's late in the day, getting dark, you're tired, and you want to go to Flatbread and get a beer. This has got to be one of the most common climbing accidents and its so easily preventable.
I don't know the status of the climber who fell. Best wishes to him.