A local business and community leader is recovering from a fall down a steep bluff on Monday evening.

The man lost control of his riding lawnmower while cutting his grass. Authorities say the man is believed to have hit a saturated patch of turf which caused his tractor to slide off the cliffside, leading to serious injuries.

On Tuesday afternoon, family confirmed the victim is Rick Berger, CEO of leather goods manufacturer Berger Company. He is an active community leader and philanthropist.

“He is doing much better and is very lucky,” said his son, Reed Berger. “It could have been much worse.”

The grass that forms the rear of Berger’s lawn in the 300 block of Terrace Street runs up into some brush that forms an effective cliff edge as the bluff descends to the western banks of the Missouri River.

“In this particular case, when his tractor slipped off the edge, apparently due to some wet ground, some wet grasslands up there ... he continued to fall, 15 or 20 feet beyond that then to where he landed,” said Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson.

Wilson said the man became separated from his tractor by the force of impact with the trees. Firefighters rescued Berger, but the mower remained caught up in the wooded area.

“Several people actually witnessed this happen as he fell off the cliff edge there,” Wilson said. “We were immediately notified. Police officers were there very quickly, as were firefighters. The firefighters ended up cutting some timber away for the rescue to be able to occur.”

The injuries resulting from the impact required a medical helicopter flight to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. Authorities said Berger was conscious and talking to them at the time of his rescue.

“I am so sad about Rick being hurt but very thankful that he is going to be OK,” said Jacque Pregont, president of the Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce. “Rick is a dear friend, but he is also very important to the entire community.

“He is so active in virtually everything and has given so much of himself to all of us. I’m praying for him and a quick full recovery.”

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