Less than a year after suffering severe injuries when she was struck by a pickup, fate offered Mtn. View reserve police officer and Missouri State Park Ranger Ellie Carson an opportunity show how far she’s come in her recovery.
Carson, hiking the Grand Canyon to honor a commitment she made to herself, was able to help two struggling hikers make the last mile of their own Grand Canyon hike during adverse weather conditions, possibly saving their lives.
Her journey west was the fulfillment of a promise she made to herself last year; a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon she had planned was cut short when she was offered a job as a park ranger. She had resolved to return this year to finish the trip, but an accident on Dec. 28, 2018, made that much more uncertain.
“When I got run over by the truck, that really put a damper on my plans,” Carson said.
While on foot, she was struck by a pickup truck making a right turn while crossing U.S. 60 in Mtn. View. Carson recalled she had pressed the crosswalk button. It changed, flashing the “walk” signal. She had barely stepped into the crosswalk when she was hit, not knowing at first what had happened.
She found herself knocked to the ground between the pickup truck’s front tires and attempting to keep from getting run over by them. In her statement to police at the time, Carson said she remembered being dragged under the truck, avoiding its catalytic converter but getting her hip hung on the drive shaft.
She added as the adrenaline wore off, she realized she couldn’t move her right leg and was having trouble breathing.
Carson was flown to a Springfield hospital for treatment of a collapsed lung, broken ribs, a severely lacerated liver, the complete dislocation of her right femur from her shattered hip and a sprained ankle with 50% mobility.
She also came out of the ordeal with scrapes and bruises from being dragged on the pavement. She had two surgeries, plus two months of physical therapy during her recovery.
Carson pushed through and got herself back into hiking shape, leaving, as she had planned the year before, for the Grand Canyon to make the trip she had delayed.
She hiked a trail to the bottom of the canyon and to the Colorado River, over 10 miles. It’s said to be a challenge even for experienced athletes.
The weather turned during the afternoon, with rain changing to snow. The sun set and temperatures fell to about 20 degrees.
Carson had joined two experienced hikers on the trail, and on the climb back out of the canyon, the trio picked up another less experienced hiker who had failed to bring a flashlight and was making slow progress in the dark.
The last five miles of the hike was a steep incline, with a difference in elevation of about 5,000 feet. About a mile from the top of the trail, under a natural tunnel, the group came upon a married couple, inexperienced hikers who were ill-prepared for the trip.
The two had taken a mule ride to the bottom of the canyon, but hiked back.
The woman was underdressed for the cold, wearing only a T-shirt, jeans, a light jacket and a rain poncho. Her pants were soaked from the rain and the temperature had fallen below freezing. The woman was cold and tired, unable to go on, and the couple had taken shelter.
They had called emergency services workers for help, but had already been in the tunnel on the cold ground for about 90 minutes when Carson and her companions found them.
Carson and the woman’s husband lay on either side of her, trying to get her warmed up and eventually were able to convince her stand and walk, but with a great deal of assistance.
“We basically had to carry her up the trail,” Carson recalled. A paramedic who had reached them, Carson and the two other seasoned hikers took turns supporting her, one on each side of her.
Carson estimates the one-mile trip took 90 minutes to two hours to make, and three to four inches of snow had fallen by the time they reached the canyon rim, where paramedics were waiting.
Carson says rangers told her that the last mile was the worst, with the challenging incline and thin air, and a spot where inexperienced hikers have become stranded and died.
Now, that last mile is also where coincidence and the determination to keep a personal promise may possibly have saved lives.