STOKES COUNTY, NC – What started as a fun day of hiking at Hanging Rock State Park quickly turned in to a nightmare for Jason Messer.

The 17-year-old is still in the hospital, three weeks after park rangers say he slipped and fell approximately 40 feet.

Messer's family says he suffered a serious brain injury but is showing signs of improvement.

Now, we're learning more about the efforts it took to rescue Messer that day.

After Messer fell, officials say he was stuck for two and half hours, until crews were able to save him!

Capt. Zachary Smith with the Winston-Salem Fire Department says that response time is typical -- when you're in a remote location like the side of a mountain.

“We spend hundreds of hours training for events like this,” said Smith.

Their training was put to the test in real life on February 18, the date of Messer’s fall.

“We knew we had a victim that had fallen but we didn't know the severity of it until we actually got on the scene,” said Smith.

Smith says the park trail was too treacherous to drive, so crews had to carry hundreds of pounds of rescue equipment, half a mile up the mountain, in the dark!

“The only light that you have up there is what you bring with you,” said Smith. “So as we were hiking up, we can hear the voices of the rescuers ahead of us but we really couldn't see them!”

When they finally reached Messer -- crews used a rescue basket and a system of ropes and carabiners to lower him 175 feet down the mountain to safety!

“It's not just a smooth rock face. There was turns, there were trees coming out, rock outcroppings, cliffs, ledges, you name it, it was all there," said Smith.

It's stressful work -- but firefighters say they'll be there to answer when they got the next call.

“Rescues don't discriminate,” said Smith. “It can be the middle of winter time or in the middle of summer, we're always ready and always prepared.”

It took six firefighters from Winston-Salem, the Stokes County EMS team, and a hospital helicopter to save Messer.

Messer’s family says he's out of a coma, but he's still in the hospital with multiple traumatic injuries.