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Iraq vet injured when rope swing snaps

A disabled Iraq veteran suffered broken ribs and a collapsed lung Sunday evening when a rope he was swinging on at Willow Lake snapped.

Brian Young, 36, of Medford, was transferred by a Mercy Flights helicopter to Providence Medford Medical Center, where he was listed in good condition late Monday afternoon.

"The lung is what they're worried about," said his new wife, Ryan. The couple were married July 4.

"I thought I lost him, for sure," she said.

Young had spent Sunday at Willow Lake with Ryan, their children and some of Ryan's family wakeboarding and skiing. About 8 p.m., Young and his brother-in-law Michael McMullen decided to try a rope swing on a tree on the east side of the lake. Young swung five or six times, McMullen swung once and Young decided to swing once more so his wife could take a picture.

"I see people all the time at that lake on the swing," said Ryan, 32. Since the water level was low, most were just swinging from the tree and back, she said.

The rope snapped just as Young reached the highest point, about 20 feet above the ground. He landed on his right side on a large rock before tumbling down the embankment, his wife said.

"I just started screaming," she said. "My brother ran down and tried to help him."

No one on the boat had a cell phone, so they lifted Young onto the boat and drove to the boating ramp for help. His lips were blue. He was gurgling. There were bulges in his back from the cracked ribs, and "he was clearly not getting the oxygen he needed," Ryan said.

The Butte Falls Fire Department arrived about 35 minutes later, but was unable to treat his injuries, Ryan said. The Mercy Flights helicopter arrived 30 minutes later, she said.

Ryan said Young was fortunate to not have any head or spinal injuries.

"Tuesday or Wednesday they will take the tube out to see if the lung will stay inflated like it's supposed to," Ryan said.

"He's lucky to be alive," said Priscilla Pearce, Ryan's grandmother.

Depending on his condition, Young may be transferred to a veterans hospital in Roseburg.

Young had served two tours with the Army in Iraq. After returning from his second tour in 2004, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, his wife said.

Gary Seitz, Willow Lake's park manager, said as far as he knows, the rope has been up all season, and is on federally owned land.

The Butte Falls Fire Department couldn't be reached Monday afternoon.

"Kids will be kids, and boys will be boys; but I think with some sign this might not have happened," Pearce said.

Reach intern Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.