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Student hospitalized after Grand Canyon fall to return home

Park Joon-hyuk, a 25-year-old university student who was hospitalized after a fall at the Grand Canyon National Park in the US, will return to Korea on Friday afternoon with the help of citizens and aviation company authorities.

Park boarded Korean Air KE006A on Thursday at 11:40 a.m., US time, at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. His flight is scheduled to arrive at Incheon around 5:39 p.m. The flight was originally scheduled to arrive early Friday morning, but heavy snow in Las Vegas delayed the flight. 

Grand Canyon (AP)
Grand Canyon (AP)

Authorities originally said that Park needed to be transfered via air ambulance, something that would cost some 200 million won. However, as Park’s health has improved -- he was unconscious for about four weeks but can now briefly talk -- he is traveling on a commercial plane accompanied by a medical assistant.

Park’s story went viral on the internet after it surfaced on the Chung Wae Dae online petition, asking the South Korean government for financial support based on the country’s obligations to protect its citizens. No government money is being used to fund Park’s transfer. Citizens and airline company Korean Air pitched in to bring back the 25-year-old.

Korean Air offered free flights for Park and the medical assistant. The company has also reconfigured 8 seats to allow Park to travel lying down.

Park’s alma mater, Dong-a University, delivered a preliminary donation of 5 million won in early January. The rest of the donation will also be given to Park to support his future medical bills. Although the exact amount is not mentioned, the university said they raised tens of millions of won.

Park was visiting the Grand Canyon as part of a group tour when he fell of a cliff near the Yavapai Point of the South Rim on Dec. 30.

By Lee Tae-hee (