Thursday, May 31, 2012


Once the officials took over  the canyon accident, and the severely injured were on their way to help, the rest of us gave a collective sigh of relief, and finally felt like we could sit down, except,there was no place to sit without encountering cactus thorns.

The last person to be removed from the ravine was Richard Crowe.  The crew bowed their heads in prayer  before placing him in the helicopter.

I slowly made my way to the road and found it jammed  with vehicles.  Everything seemed chaotic  and I wondered how I was going to get out of the canyon?

Jim had been helped to the top and lay on a rock  waiting for the  helicopter to return and move  he and Bill Repshur  to an ambulance waiting on the overlook. From there, the ambulance took them to the Chinle Medical Center.
Jean, Chris, myself and Anita, the walking wounded,  were asked if we wanted to ride out with a volunteer family from the canyon.  The Bia family had come into the canyon that day to water their squash and corn plants with their children.  When they saw many emergency vehicles driving by, and heard the helicopters, they knew something terrible had happened and drove over to offer help. The kids gave up their back seat in the truck and stayed at the site with friends, (I assume), so  Jean, Chris and I took their place in the back of the pick-up.  We met Albert and Cecilia Bia, and Virginia (Bia) Lee, a brother and two sisters.  This wonderful family  turned to us after introductions and asked if we would like to pray with them. We all clasped hands on the back of their bench seat and the family prayed for us, and for all of those in trouble, in Navajo. A very touching gesture I will never forget.
Albert drove as quickly as he could, navigating the rough, bumpy road. He told us the canyon had been closed to traffic so we would meet very little traffic on the way out on the narrow roads.
As we bumped along, I realized something was wrong with my back. Sitting against the back seat, made my back burn. I was able to hook my toes under the front seat and sit upright enough so my back wouldn’t touch. It was wonderfully distracting to have Albert, Cecilia and Virginia tell us about their lives.
Families from their clan,  who farm in the canyon, where there is no electricity or running water and sewer, live “on top”. It would be more difficult  to get their children to school each day, and take care of daily life,  than to haul water down into the canyon to water their plants. He had driven in with the children.  He pointed out their farm lands as we  passed. And his cattle we met on the road.

(My second camera is now not working properly. And, it was bumpy and difficult to take pictures out the window, though I tried.)
Later in the day, Virginia and Cecilia climbed down into the canyon on the one of the Twin Trails.

(This is a very skewed picture of Twin Trails visible in the far right of the picture where Cecilia and Virginia walked down from the ridge.)
They are three of 12 siblings.  Navajo families work together on the land, and benefit together. Ned Bia, their grandfather, knew enough English to translate  paperwork when the government Bureau of Indian Affairs was parceling out their ancestral lands back to the families. Navajo families are divided into clans and traditionally have no last name. He became known as Ned Bia, for Bureau of Indian Affairs. The government wanted them to take last names and they often took the names of what they were doing. Like one man hauled wood. His name became Hollawood. (Not sure of spelling.)
When meeting other Navajo, they always ask, “What’s your clan”, because they cannot inter-marry within their own clan. The clans have very descriptive names like Two Walking People, Or Salt By The River Clan. (These may not be accurate.)
The Bias, like all families,  are concerned about the next generation. Will their children love the land? Will they appreciate the simple life and  the ability to  lead a self-sustaining lifestyle as they do?  The Bias  have cattle and gardens. Horses run wild in the canyon and do a lot of damage besides over-grazing. A currently unsolved problem. Some Navajo are opposed fencing them. Others feel each family should be responsible for their horses and keep them contained.  The families hunt deer in the canyon, as well.
Whenever we passed a place of interest, the Bias would explain it to us and answer our questions.  They pointed out Baby Trail. It was a narrow, vertical crevice in a huge rock edifice. Baby trail looked anything but baby trail to us. Named for  a woman with a baby on her back who was being chased by the Spanish. She managed to get up into a crevice to hide and she squeezed her way up and out to escape the Spaniards.  From then on, it was called Baby Trail. No one could understand how she made it up the crevice, including us.
When we arrived in Chinle, the Bias took Jean and Chris to the Thunderbird Hotel. Jim and I had our packs and took no money with us. The Bias refused gas money from Jean and Chris, then drove us on to the medical center. We can’t thank the Bias enough for their timely assistance and prayers.

I was examined and released to wait with Jim while they got the results of his chest scan. I had several abrasions, possible broken ribs, a huge lump on my head, a bruised eye and jaw, and a painfully bruised breast. He had a massive bruise on his rib cage, no internal injuries. His severe pain was due to gas bubbles in his intestines that would put him right down on the floor. The nurse offered to take our picture and I look at it and think how could I look so normal?  I was  tired, hungry, feeling dizzy and disoriented and exhausted. I wanted a hot bath, a bowl of soup and my bed. It was 9:00 p.m. by the time we returned to the motor home. Inexplicably, my camera worked for this picture, only to fail again later.
I want to say, that given all that happened, I would gladly take another trip in  the other six wheel drive truck  like the one we rode in,  open to the wide and glorious views of this beautiful, spiritual place. The beauty remains and the spirits keep watch.  Jim and I hope to feel well enough by Saturday to continue the rim overlooks.  In the last two days we’ve been visited by several officials from the park, the hotel, and the Sheriff’s Department. We gave our statements and pictures to the Sheriff’s Department for their investigation. Tanya, a canyon family member, stopped in for a visit.  Jean and Chris had purchased a painted rock from a young boy in the canyon from Tanya’s family.  During our drive out of the canyon,  Jean over and over said, please,please tell that young boy that we are uninjured and we saved his beautiful rock from the wreckage to take back to Wisconsin with us.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


This is Richard, last name unknown,  being assisted by a young member of the other tour.  I received a message  from Monica Gardella, on my other blog. Monica is a friend of Richard and his wife, Debbie. They are  both  in a hospital in New Mexico.(Coincidentally we had two couples on this tour with the same names.)  Debbie is the one who calmed her husband from the other side of the truck by telling him she wouldn’t  be able to make class because he wanted to take this tour. I’m so glad Monica wrote, and any other details about their well-being  are welcome.

Frank Shearer in the maroon shirt, with his back to the camera, (the lens is not working properly) helped me identify the tie rod assembly and encouraged me to take a picture of it. He once owned a tow truck business in Oklahoma, and did front end alignment work for thirty hears.  We also learned from a message and phone call from Frank this morning, that the man who jumped out of the truck and landed on the ground before the tumble,  was discovered by Frank and his friends, Dewayne, Vern and Steve, sitting dazed under a tree. They stopped to ask him if he was okay and he told them, the truck went over the cliff.   So, we learned, that Frank and his friends, older guys, as Frank put it, were our first guardian angels who came down the hill and dug with their bare hands, sticks and anything they could find to dig people out of the wreck.  We learn as we go,  as each person helps us complete the picture from their perspective.

The nameless man who jumped from the truck in the yellow and blue jacket at the beginning of our trip in happier times.  Sans hat and jacket, when I saw him after the accident,  he had an abrasion on his forehead and told me he hurt his shoulder and back. He landed on the ground above before the truck made its tumble.  Richard and Deby Crowe behind him. And Anita and Margaret behind them. If I’m wrong about any identifications, please correct me.

Here Margaret and Anita sit side by side next to the truck.  Margaret had broken ribs both back and front.  Anita, who was in pain herself, the day after the accident, drove the 200 miles to Flagstaff to pick up her friend and return to California.

Bill Repshur with his sweatshirt over his head,  while the paramedics are getting ready to move his wife,  Sofie,  into the copter. Sofie’s son reported that she suffered a broken pelvis among other injuries and will be in the hospital for a couple more days. Also in this picture, in the white sweatshirt, is Jean and her husband Chris who worked continuously during  the rescue;  Jean with perpetual tears in her eyes.  They were the only people to refuse medical treatment and seemed to be totally uninjured. They are from Wisconsin and we have not heard from them.

I believe this is Sophie Zagar when she was first dug out from under the truck.

This is Jean and Chris right after we boarded, holding up their tickets, in happier times.  Debbie, and Bill and Sophie in the background.
I forgot to thank the rangers, the paramedics and the  rescue personnel  for their diligent work in getting us all out. At one point we were out of water and someone thought to go get the big water container from the other tour truck and we again had plenty of water, which I continued to dole out to anyone who looked empty. And, when the helicopter arrived, they plunked down a whole case of water bottles.
I had meant to blog today about the wonderful family that drove me out of the canyon, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. We are both moving pretty slowly and trying to keep up with messages.  Jim had warned me before we set out for Canyon de Chelly. Stock up, we are going to be a long way from a supermarket. Well, I’m glad we had plenty of food on hand, so I’m not doing much in the way of cooking. We are hanging in here, just grabbing what is handy. Also, the people from the Thunderbird Lodge have bent over backwards to see that we are comfortable and treated well. They offered us a room, shower, anything or help that we needed.  Mary Jones, the owner, has been wonderful and we can’t thank her enough.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


An accident like the one we survived is a horrific event. I chose to take pictures of it and I hesitated for fear of appearing ghoulish.  But after the bicycle accident last October, (my blog entitled Black Monday) where I took three  pictures and felt guilty about it and stopped, I found out through the long process , when the Highway Patrol needed my pictures, and after becoming friendly with the victims Essya Nabballi  and Martha Wright, that it was the right thing to do. So, I hope  these photos offend no one.

This photo shows the long drop we took.

The driver, front, radioed the office  several times for help, telling them we need paramedics, NOW!  There is no signal in the canyon for cell phones for those who tried dialing 911. And, when you accept the remote location, when you accept the beauty and adventure you are about to enjoy,  you also surrender those conveniences we've come to know, including immediate emergency services.

Jim and I were seated right behind the driver. The road is bumpy, rutted, rock strewn and I watched as he navigated the half day journey to our lunch spot through the many twists and turns, around downed trees and through heavy sands and mud. I can only say, Deschennes Davidson is an excellent, driver, a strong man who knows this road.  When we left our lunch spot and began the ascent, I saw him go over a berm,  he turned his wheel frantically to the right, but the vehicle continued to the left. Jim yelled, we are going over. And I dove for the floor as others who heard him did the same.

There were only about five of us who were mobile, to help the others. In this tragedy, there was good luck in that the incident happened so close to the lunch stop, that the tour that pulled in behind us for their lunch, heard the screams and the shouts and the noise and came to see. They were our rescuers and, they came running to help. Though I know none of them, I saw them all working their hearts out, and we are ever grateful to them. Bill, Anita, Jim, Davidson, and  myself were unable to do much. Jean and Chris, a couple from Wisconsin were unhurt and did most of the heavy hauling in our group and continued when the other tour members pitched in.

For my own situation, Jim and I were protected somewhat by the cab. Thus our injuries were not as severe as others. I was trapped and pinned painfully under a collapsed bench with the woman above, Deby, sitting on top of it. She struggled to lift her weight up so that I could remove my painful breast, ribs and back out. My hand was still trapped under the back of the bench seat,  now with her full weight turning my hand numb. I was able to dig in the dirt and free my hand. Deby struggled to get out and became the first to get out. She was worried because  her husband was struggling to breathe. I went out behind her. Then they got her husband, Richard, out.

Jim was helped out behind Richard and others worked getting the most injured out of the wreck. They were closer to the ground  at the back of the truck and  took the brunt of the crash.  Jim was mobile for awhile. He laid in the shade to rest and was never able to really navigate on his own after that.

Remembering black Monday, I took pictures of the undercarriage of the truck.  A gentleman from the other tour was a mechanic and he held up the tie rod, showing that it was missing the nut and cotter pin, thus the driver had no control of his steering.

My favorite canon camera was scraped and crushed under the truck, but I used my alternate camera and just kept taking pictures and documenting everything I could. I had also brought a half-gallon jug of water and became the official water person, moving from group to group and trying to keep water in the small bottles. We luckily had a former medic from Viet Nam, his name is Beau, from Virginia,  who knew what to do and he kept order. Moving from place to place making sure everyone could wiggle their toes, move their hands, and talk. He instructed helpers to keep them talking, keep them hydrated, keep the sun off them so they wouldn't burn.  He was indispensable and Beau, where ever you are, we are so very grateful. He worked extensively with Richard, clearing his breathing passages, talking to him, begging him to keep breathing, giving him CPR.  Richard went into shock and died at the scene.  Beau  went off to himself and cried a bit, and then came back to pitch in. The driver, too, was much affected by Richard's death and got sick in the bushes. None of us were left untouched.

This woman and her husband were  determined by the first medics on the scene to be the most severely injured. He kept demanding to be by his wife. She could hear him and said tell him it is his fault I won't be able to make my class on Monday, because he wanted to take this damn tour. With her sense of humor intact, he was then calm enough to quit trying to get up and move about. She lay in this position the entire time.

It took over an hour to get everyone out from under the truck. It was three hours before the helicopter arrived to take people out. The first plan was to fly them out of the canyon to ambulances waiting above on the overlook. But, the injured were severe and were taken directly to a trauma center and a second helicopter dispatched.

Again, without all the helping hands of the second tour group, the job of making it up to the copter would have been much more difficult and timely. Circumstances, not birth, make people heroes.

Bill, with his jacket over his head, sheltered and kept his injured wife's spirits up as best he could through the entire three hours. He, too was injured and needed stitches in his head. She was in the most pain and her screams of pain is what brought the group to help us.

Margaret and her friend Anita sat next to the truck, both complaining of being in pain, but feeling okay. But, when they tried to get up, Margaret could not walk and had to be carried out on a back board as well.

As the last helicopter left, with the sight of the ancient ruins behind it, I couldn't help but think, what a different world we live in compared to the ancients. We will never know them,  but we all experienced  the beauty of this special place.  (You can click on any of these photos to make them larger.)

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Thank goodness I have a floppy hat with a chin strap, but the wind was even worse than the day before. At Tunnel Overlook,  above,  I managed to take one picture.  Neither of us would even try the chiseled steps down into the canyon to see the tunnel for fear of being blown off balance. When I opened the door to the Bronco, the wind pulled out of my hand so fiercely, I couldn’t get it closed. Then, when I returned to the Bronco, while closing the door, the wind wrenched it so hard the arm-rest handle broke.

Tsegi Overlook was close by.  The haze at the back of the canyon is dust raised by wind.  This time Jim backed the Bronco into a parking spot so the wind couldn’t slam the door open.





Driving the short distance to our third stop,  Junction Overlook, the road in front of us was billowing with dust.  Grit scalded my bare legs where I stood on the rim.






We were out for about 30 minutes. The overlooks were close to each other, but the next one was nine miles away. We decided to call it a day. And glad we were. We returned to spend the rest of the day, doing more tin can rock and roll. Winds blew a steady 60 miles per hour all day with gusts of 70 to 75. Green branches were blown off trees in the park,  one of them hit the motor home. Sand skittered in waves across the paved areas.  The extremely fine dust filtered in through every crack  putting a fine particulate on the fruit in the bowl, our computers, floors and every surface. It seemed unreal. We are told the weather for our jeep tour today will be better. The tour is called Shake And Bake because it is hot in the canyon and the roads are bumpy. We’ll try to finish the South Rim overlooks on Monday.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


At this site yesterday, with 50 mile per hour winds, my stomach did a tumble.   It felt like I  was going to be blown into the abyss. It made for difficult picture-taking. We kept hoping the wind would let up, but it stayed with us the whole day.

Massacre Cave Overlook tells the story of the Spanish chasing the Puebloan people who climbed high and hid in caves. Then from the cliffs they shot them and picked them off, killing 25 people, mostly women and children.

The Mummy Cave overlook, tells of a woman grappling with a Spanish soldier and pulling him with her over the edge to save the life of the person he was shooting for.

This old Anasazi ruins dates to 368 A.D.  It is called Antelope House because of the drawings on the walls.  It was used by Puebloan people as late as the 1300′s and the antelope drawings were made in the 1800′s. We will jeep tour the canyon floor on Sunday and see it up close.   The winds were so fierce, the motor home was decorated with grit and grime. We moved to a site closer to the Thunderbird Lodge to get their signal since ours didn’t work yesterday, and the lodge signal from a distance was slow and difficult.  We felt trapped because of the strong winds and grit. We didn’t venture out the door for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
To see the rest of my pictures, click on the following link: