ECOLA STATE PARK, Ore. – A Kodak moment almost turned into tragedy recently at a popular Oregon coast viewpoint when a small child nearly tumbled over a towering cliff as she posed for a family photo.
The whole incident was captured on video.
The Pitton family and some cousins were enjoying beautiful summer weather at the popular Ecola State Park overlook along Highway 101 several months ago when they asked several small children to stand against a fence for a photo.
Among them was 3-year-old Alaina Pitton, a spunky little blond girl who took up the position between two other girls.
In the background, the blue Pacific Ocean stretched away to the horizon. But just a few feet behind the fence where the girls were standing was a sheer 150-foot drop down to the rocky shoreline.
As the video camera records the happy scene, little Alaina steps backwards against the fence to pose for the photo – and suddenly topples through the gap between the top and bottom fence rails.
She lands awkwardly just inches from the precipice, and grabs onto plants to keep from going over the edge. An adult cousin quickly hops the fence and scoops her up. She was not hurt.
On the video, another adult can be heard saying "Oh my God, oh my God."
The fall only lasted a second or two, but the impact of the the narrowly averted tragedy has been long-lasting.
Alaina said "I was shaking. My tummy was shaking. My head was shaking. My arms were shaking. And my legs. My feet too."
Her mother, Charlotte Pitton, said it took her weeks to stop shaking over the memory of the near-disaster.
"That heart-pounding, and that terrifying feeling that, I have never experienced that terrifying feeling like that before," Charlotte Pitton told KATU News.
Alaina’s father was not near the scene at the time and was at first dismissive of the seriousness of the fall. Until he saw the video.
"I said, ‘oh come on it couldn't be that bad,’" Scott Pitton said he told family members at the time.
"I looked at it about two days later," Scott recalls, "and it made my heart stop just watching it on a little 2-inch screen" on the camcorder.
Alaina’s mother Charlotte said she is upset with the Oregon Parks service for leaving such a large gap between the fence rails near such a dangerous spot.
"I guess the more I thought about it, the angrier I got at the state parks because there's just no excuse for that," Charlotte Pitton said.
While she said she does not plan to take any legal action, she did say she hopes the parks department would take steps to make the fence safer for small children.