At about 1 a.m. on Tuesday, April 30, 27-year-old A.J. Ritchie woke up to the feeling of weightlessness. The truck he was riding in had just plummeted off a cliff on State Route 88 near Fish Creek Hill.
"I woke up when we were airborne," said Ritchie.
"I felt myself off of the seat and we started rolling and I knew we were going off a cliff. [The truck] rolled and rolled and rolled. I couldn't tell you how many times," he continued.
Ritchie, his girlfriend and two other friends were returning from a camping trip when the crash happened. After the truck stopped rolling after the 400-foot drop, A.J. said he knew he had to act fast. He was bleeding profusely from his head and his body was bruised, but he could still walk. His friends were in worse shape, so after making sure everyone was conscious, he started looking for help.
"I flew up the cliff pretty quick. I started walking, and I walked barefoot for about five miles," said Ritchie.
"What was going through your head that entire time?" asked CBS 5's Greg Argos.
"My feet hurt. That was pretty much it. I really need to find help and I really wish I had shoes on. I don't know where they went. They must have fallen off when we were flipping," responded Ritchie.
Hours later, Ritchie finally saw an SUV approaching the crash scene. He was covered in blood but still tried to wave down the driver.
"A gray Ford Escape actually drove around me in the middle of the road," recalled Ritchie.
"A couple [was inside], and they swerved around me and just kept going. [They] didn't slow down. [They] didn't stop. That was about four hours into it and at that point it was pretty deflating," he said.
Finally, some seven hours after the crash, Ritchie was finally able to flag down help.
"I saw somebody park their car and get out. So I started screaming help. He finally got in his car and started driving towards us. He gave [my friends] water and drove me to Tortilla Flat, where I called 911."
Ritchie said he does not consider himself a hero. He's just glad he was able to find someone that could help out him and his friends.
"I was the only able-bodied person to climb out. I didn't have a choice. Anybody else would have done it," said Ritchie.
The three other people in the truck have been released from the hospital and are expected to make a full recovery.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved
322 Shipyard Boulevard