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Backflip off of Paradise Falls causes broken neck

Cameron Stewart didn't think it was all that high, until he flipped off the side of the cliff. The fall landed on the water with a neck cracking thud.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A North Carolina man is recovering from a serious neck injury after a back flip off a waterfall broke his neck.

The great weather Labor Day weekend was quite the lure for college students in the mountains just south of Asheville, North Carolina. Everything was great until Cameron Stewart decided he was going to try a back flip off the cliff above Paradise Falls. Someone nearby was filming as Stewart climbs carefully up into place.

The jump a few seconds later goes wildly out of control and Stewart lands in the water behind the rocks out of view. The crowd reaction of concerned people impact signaled something went wrong.

Stewart’s friends helped him out of the water and drove him to the hospital. 

This backflip out at Paradise Falls south of Asheville this week went terribly wrong. The crushing impact of the water...

Posted by WCNC Bill McGinty on Friday, September 11, 2020

Stewart is now in a cervical collar for a reason: the force of his body slamming into the water broke his neck, his C-5 vertebrae was broken and his back badly bruised. Stewart said the doctors told him he is lucky he can still walk.

Credit: Cameron Stewart

Western North Carolina has 60 scenic waterfalls, some roadside, and some you must hike in to see.  Waterfalls in western North Carolina are big tourism business in most seasons, and a big danger if you are not careful. In the past 25 years the North Carolina Forest Service says 50 people have died on or near waterfalls.

RELATED: Man falls 100 feet to death at Polk waterfall

RELATED: Would-be rescuer, friend die at WNC waterfall

Stewart is very lucky. He says hitting the water felt like concrete and he guesses he jumped from 55 feet up.  Stewart says his parents gave him a stern lecture about making better life decisions in the future.

Credit: Cameron Stewart

RELATED: SC hiker falls to his death while taking photo at the top of a NC waterfall

The recovery will be at least six weeks, Stewart said doctors will reevaluate treatment at that point.