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Injured Hiker Defends Friends After Officials Said They Left Him in Grand Canyon: 'Unjustly Vilified'

Hiker William Formanek spoke out after officials said in a statement that his friends left him behind and then continued on "their backpacking adventures"

<p>Mohave County Sheriff

Mohave County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue

A hiker who was injured in Grand Canyon National Park disputed a statement from authorities that said his friends left him behind.

A hiker who was rescued from Grand Canyon National Park last week is setting the record straight after officials initially claimed that his friends abandoned him after he was injured in order to continue backpacking.

In a statement, the Mojave County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue said that they received a distress call on Friday from "someone using an Apple device."

Officials said that a group of five friends were hiking on the North Rim of the park along the Kanab Creek when one member of the group, identified as a 63-year-old man, fell and experienced a "traumatic injury to his shoulder that needed emergency medical attention and evacuation."


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An air rescue helicopter arrived at the vicinity of the injured hiker based on the information from the Apple device and the hiker was stabilized and transported to a hospital in Flagstaff, Arizona, according to the sheriff’s office.

“When asked about the other four hikers and their whereabouts, it was learned that the injury occurred around 2pm earlier in the day,” the sheriff’s office statement read.  “Once contact for help using the Apple device was confirmed by the hiking group, the other four hikers left with the Apple device and continued on their backpacking adventures – leaving the injured hiker behind alone.”

Related: Missing Hiker, 78, Who Was Separated from Group in California Gets Rescued After Nearly 48 Hours

However, in an interview with Insider, William Formanek defended his friends, saying they “did all the exact right things" and "got me rescued."

He went on to say that his friends were being "unjustly vilified in the media" due to the original statement.

Formanek told the outlet that the group was a few days into their seven-day backpacking excursion when he was injured. That Friday, he and another friend decided to hike further south down the Kanab Creek, splitting off from the rest of the hikers.

Related: Melting Glacier Reveals Remains of German Hiker Who Went Missing 37 Years Ago

When he and the friend were returning to their campsite around 2:30 p.m., Formanek said he fell while crossing the creek and hit a boulder that resulted in his shoulder injury. He and the friend were unable to carry on and they didn’t have a satellite device, which the other three friends they separated from had.

“Hence, with my blessing and encouragement, my friend continued to hike, hoping to catch the others before dark and request a rescue," Formanek told the outlet.

Five miles later, the friend found the rest of the group around 5 p.m. and they put in the request for the search and rescue via their device.

More than three hours later, the rescue helicopter arrived a quarter mile from Formanek’s location, according to authorities.

Related: Missing Hiker Found Dead Days After Texting Her Husband That She 'Got Off Course'

After they were notified the following morning that Formanek had been safely airlifted, the rest of the group proceeded to hike out of the canyon, per The Arizona Republic.

The information from the sheriff’s office's original press release about Formanek’s friends leaving him while he was injured was initially picked up by various news outlets and reportedly prompted critical responses on social media. But Formanek has denied that his friends were being insensitive.

"They're being vilified as idiots and poor friends and all that inaccurate stuff because of that one line in the MCSO post," Formanek told Insider. In his comments to The Arizona Republic, the hiker added: "My co-hikers were very upset that the press release was inaccurate, like, fuming and couldn't sleep at night."

Meanwhile, the Mojave County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue has updated its initial statement Wednesday after being contacted by Formanek to clarify what happened.

“He said they were on their way back to the campsite when the injury occurred," the updated statement read. "The other hiker left him alone and went to use an emergency device that was with the other three hikers who were a few miles away. When rescuers arrived on scene, he was alone.

“Search and Rescue encourages everyone when adventuring in the remote, wilderness areas of Mojave County to be prepared for the unexpected and in these remote wilderness settings," they added.

The sheriff’s office told The Arizona Republic Monday that it stood by its initial statement based on what Formanek had said to them at the time of the incident. When reached by PEOPLE Thursday, the Mojave County Sheriff’s Office referred to the updated statement posted on Facebook by Search and Rescue.

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Read the original article on People.