EDMOND, Okla. – A family is mourning the man they say gave his own life to help save that of his grandson after their vehicle tumbled roughly 150 feet down the side of a mountain in New Mexico.
Family members said 63-year-old Jerry Greenough has been making the same trip in Red River, New Mexico for about 20 years.
On Sept. 1, however, it was the first year his twin 13-year-old grandsons got to go with him.
“I never expected this to happen. This is like I still question, I’m like I don’t understand it. Daddy knew that trail,” said his daughter, Amanda Kerley, who was at home in Edmond, Oklahoma when she got the news.
They all camped on the top of the mountain – the two boys, their dad and Greenough, or Papa, as they called him.
But, on the way back down the mountain the next day, there was an unforeseen tragedy.
Austyn Kerley was in his Papa’s Jeep, and his dad and brother were in their Jeep leading the way.
“We got stuck on a rock and, 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,” Austyn said.
They rolled 150 feet down the side of the mountain before stopping.
Amanda said her dad wrapped his arms around her son in the car.
“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.
“I remember his arms around me because I held onto his right sleeve all the way down until he let go of me and I lost grip and flew out,” Austyn said.
Austyn’s dad rappelled down the side of the mountain, using the wench on his jeep and hoisted his son back up.
Other people who were driving the same trail stopped to help.
“One of them was a paramedic by trade and went down there, and he did 15 to 20 minutes’ worth of CPR on my dad and he just never, my daddy was gone,” Amanda said.
Austyn was medi-flighted to a hospital in Albuquerque.
He had lost more than 40 percent of his blood, had spinal injuries in his neck and back, a punctured lung, broken ribs and he lost his spleen.
But, he was alive.
“There’s no doubt in my mind my daddy gave his life to save him and he would do it over and over again. That’s who my dad was,” Amanda said.
Austyn now has part of Papa’s knife collection. Just one way to remember the man who died, doing everything he could to make sure his grandson lived.
“If he wouldn’t have held onto me and saved me, then I don’t think I would be here,” Austyn said.
Amanda also credits her husband and other son for their quick thinking and actions that day.
Doctors initially told Amanda that Austyn would be in the hospital until the end of October and then would likely have to go to the Children’s Hospital in Bethany for rehabilitation.
She calls him a miracle and said he’s defied all the odds.