Footage from a frightening incident during a summer bat mitzvah trip to Israel and the rescue that saved a 15-year-old Baltimore girl’s life was posted online by the Baltimore Jewish Life last week. The video, produced by Adina Chesir and shared by the girl’s father, Isaac “Yiztie” Pretter, is meant to publicize what is being called a “miraculous” rescue and express thanks to G-d.
The Pretter family traveled from Baltimore to Israel with their five children in August to celebrate their daughter’s bat mitzvah. During their trip, the family visited United Hatzalah’s Jerusalem Headquarters to tour and learn about their lifesaving work and they generously donated towards a new trauma kit.
“The mission of the Pretter’s trip was to show their kids a good time and do some chesed. United Hatzalah happened to be an organization they chose to visit but they never expected to need our help,” said United Hatzalah of Israel President Eli Beer. He met Leah’s father a few years ago when Beer spoke at AIPAC and the two kept in touch.
On August 28, the Pretters were paragliding, a popular tourist activity, when Leah and her accompanying instructor collided into a seaside cliff on the Herzliya coast. They crashed just 20 feet from the top of the cliff, landing on a precarious ledge with a 300 foot drop beneath them, said a DC-based spokesperson for Magen David Adom (MDA), another Israeli emergency response service.
The instructor, 73, fell unconscious and later died as a result of the accident. Leah fought to keep a tight hold on the parachute chords to prevent them from falling off the cliff, as the two were still harnessed together. From the peak, two other witnesses and Leah’s father were able grab the parachute and prevent it from moving. With just hands securing the tangled parachute, Leah was stranded on a ridge, many feet above the beach and completely inaccessible from the cliff’s peak.
“United Hatzalah received this call and their incredible volunteer, Miki Zweig, was there within minutes,” recounted Beer. “Miraculously, he is one of the only people who had a key to the locked beach where they were. Miki happens to be part of the rescue team there, but it would not generally be accessible to most drivers or even rescue personnel. Since Miki has a four-wheel drive jeep, he was able to drive as close to the scene as possible. Leah’s family was also there watching frantically.”
“There was no way for Miki way to access them by foot, but he, along with other emergency responders, were able to speak with Leah by yelling from the top of the cliff, keeping her as calm as possible. Miki managed the scene by simultaneously encouraging Leah to hold on, calming onlookers and coordinating with the army to bring in more emergency services and coordinating with other rescue professionals. They arranged to bring an army helicopter from special unit 669 to the scene. Once the helicopter arrived, they lowered a rescue professional towards Leah who was able to cut her away from the guide. They lifted her to a place where they could grab her, assess her and treat her injuries and then put her on a stretcher. She was then transported by the helicopter straight to Tel Hashomer hospital.”
Paramedics and EMTs from MDA and the IDF also responded to the scene to rescue Leah and get her medical treatment. She sustained minor injuries only, and on doctors orders waited a week before flying home to the States.
Just nine days after her ordeal, Leah was back at school at Bais Yaakov of Baltimore. Her safe return was celebrated with warm words from the school leadership and dancing and singing with her peers.