A grandfather made the ultimate sacrifice to protect a member of his family in a dire camping accident.
Edmond, Oklahoma, resident Jerry Greenough had been making the camping trip to Red River, New Mexico, for the past 30 years, his daughter, Amanda Kerley, told KFOR-TV.
This year, Greenough, 63, was going to take his 13-year-old twin grandsons on the trip for the first time, Kerley said.
Kerley’s sons, husband and father camped at the top of the mountain on Sept. 1, but on their way back down, tragedy struck.
Greenough and one of the twins, Austyn Kerley, were in Greenough’s Jeep, while Austyn’s father and brother were in another Jeep ahead of them.
Greenough, better known in the family as “Papa,” got caught while driving over a rock, Austyn said.
“So, my papa tried to floor my jeep to get it over the rock, and the rock slid out and we just rolled down the hill,” the teen said.
On the way down the hill, Greenough selflessly wrapped himself around his grandson, Kerley said.
“My dad grabbed a hold of him and just cocooned him — just totally protected him from as much as he could as the Jeep rolled down,” she said.
Austyn said he remembers his grandfather’s arms around him,
“I held onto his right sleeve all the way down until he let go of me and I lost grip and flew out,” he said.
The boy’s father then rappelled down the mountain and used the wrench on his Jeep to hoist Austyn back up.
A good Samaritan who happened upon the scene was a paramedic and did CPR on Greenough for up to 20 minutes, but he was “gone,” Kerley said.
Austyn was airlifted to a hospital in Albuquerque in critical condition He had lost his spleen and more than 40 percent of his blood, and suffered broken ribs, a punctured lung and spinal injuries in his back and neck. He will remain in the hospital until next month and will need rehabilitation after that.
Kerley is still in disbelief over the accident, she said.
“I never expected this to happen,” she said. “…I don’t understand it. Daddy knew that trail.”
But, Kerley believes her sacrificed himself for Austyn.
“There’s no doubt in my mind my daddy gave his life to save him, and he would do it over and over again,” Kerley said. “That’s who my dad was.”
Austyn inherited part of Greenough’s knife collection, mementos to remind him of the beloved grandfather who saved him.
“If he wouldn’t have held onto me and saved me, then I don’t think I would be here,” Austyn said.