With His Father's Life On The Line, This 13-Year-Old Boy Became A Hero

What an incredible young man.

Charlie Finlayson found a way not to panic, and he believes it's what saved his dad's life. That, and praying.

The 13-year-old was on a hiking trip with his 52-year-old dad, David, when a refrigerator-sized boulder came tumbling off a mountainside towards them. 

"Dumb luck. It didn't come off too far above me, so it wasn't rolling too fast," David Finlayson told the Idaho Statesman.

While it may not have been coming too fast, it did do some serious damage. After being knocked 20 or 30 feet off the ledge where they were scouting a climbing route, David was in bad shape.

According the Idaho Statesmen report, "the blow broke his back, his left arm and left heel. It carved a foot-long gash on his shin, exposing the bone. It dislodged a crown on one of his back teeth, ripped off his helmet and briefly knocked him out."

"I saw him lying there and I was pretty scared," Charlie Finlayson told PEOPLE. "But after a minute, I realized I would have to calm down or I'd make the situation worse. So I took a deep breath and thought, 'Okay, I have to do this. My dad's in serious trouble. And it's up to me to help him.'" 


In the middle of a 12-day trip, the two quickly realized nobody would come looking for them, despite the fact they were 13 miles from the nearest ranger, one mile from their own camp site and suddenly in some very serious trouble. Fortunately for David, his son was an experienced Boy Scout who had been on several camping trips and adventures.

And he would need all the experience for what was coming next.

After a night in the boulder fields, Charlie snapped into action. 

For two days he fed his father granola bars and water, checking the river for fishermen who might able to help and making sure his dad didn't die from blood loss. He used their first aid kit to dress his wound, and even helped his dad get down to the river so they could clean him off in the lake.

"We had to spend the night on the rocks," David told PEOPLE. "Then the next day, he helped me crawl across the rocks to the lake. It took hours and hours and it was terribly painful. I could only go an inch at a time. I passed out a few times, but Charlie brought me back by saying, 'Come on, you can do this. Just a few more feet.' He coached me down." 

But after those two days, Charlie and David had to make a tough decision: Charlie would have to leave his dad to go look for help, which could be as far as 13 miles up the trail.

"He was just afraid to leave me because he didn't know ... didn't know if he'd see me again," David told the Idaho Statesman.

Holding back tears, Charlie set out on his mission with a note from his dad. 

The note reads:

"My name is David Finlayson and this is my son Charlie. A large boulder fell on me three days ago. I have a broken arm (left), a broken ankle (left), and a large open wound on my left leg. i believe the bleeding is under control. I cannot walk so i need a rescue unfortuantely. Please help charlie find me for me. I am camped on the southwest end of Ship Island Lake — where the trail around lake runs into the boulder field. Thank you for your help."

It was only three miles after leaving his father that Charlie handed the note to two men from the same town he and his father lived in. They headed towards Ship Lake to aid David as Charlie continued on to the trailhead. Not far after, he encountered a runner who offered to jog the last eight miles to the trail head and get back up. Charlie, who weighs 90 pounds and had a 40 pound pack on his back, arrived two to three hours after the runner.

It took a helicopter and a lot of help packaging David onto a stretcher, but eventually he was hoisted out of the boulder field and taken to a hospital in Boise. David, who is a criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City, has had two surgeries to repair his broken back and is on his way to recovery.

Check out his son's telling of the story:


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