This is an account of our mule ride trip from Alison De Rooy,
15 year old daughter of Leonard De Rooy.

Click here for part 2 of the story.

[Editor's Notes: I added a few clarifications, Leonard]
Hey everyone,
Our vacation was great, but there was an accident on the mule ride. This is how it went, and we are coming home about a week early because of it.

There were 2 mule leader people in our group of about 12 mules. We made it down safely, had eaten lunch, and were just started on our way back up, maybe about half an hour into the trail. One of the leader’s mule was right in front of me, and he was also holding another mule behind him (he was training that mule). The mule that he was riding spooked, and started going crazy. He let go of the second mule that he was holding, which came by my mule and got my mule scared. Then he and his mule went galloping up the cliff side onto the other 6 mules which got spooked. Then he fell off his mule, and caused another man to fall under his mule. Then that leader’s mule came back by me, and a girl grabbed onto it to try to calm it. Then both leaders came around the corner, and “re-scared” the mules, and the girl’s mule and the one she was hanging onto, and my mule and the one right by me started hopping around on the cliff side. That girl’s mule started backing off the cliff, so she jumped off the mule and ran to a nearby over hang in the rocks and covered her head. I stayed on my mule, but it was still jumping and running all around. Then all 4 of those mules started to gallop down the trail to where my mom, dad, and 2 brothers were on their mules. That scared their mules, so now there were about 7 mules and riders on a 2 foot path with a rock wall on one side, and a drop-off on the other side. My mule started to back up, and kind of got out of the tangle. My brother Jacob was the farthest back, so his mule shot forward and ran all the way to the bottom of the trail.[Jacob had the ride of his life and had a great time :-) ] My mom, dad, and my brother Michael and 3 empty mules however, were still on the path running around crazy. The whole pack kept running on a 2 foot path, and my dad slammed into the rock wall, my mom fell off the cliff, and my brother Michael fell under and looked like he got stepped on.

So the two leaders tried to get everything under control, but I was panicking and so was everybody else still on their mules. After about 20 minutes of sitting on our mules with each of us trying to keep them under control, one by one the leaders got us off our mules and lead them part way up the trail, and then about 4 of us sat by the rocks waiting to be told what to do. Luckily in our group, there was a nurse who was willing to help the injured people. After about another 20 minutes, a leader came and led us to the bottom of the trail where we had first eaten lunch. There we waited for 3 hours with no news of what had happened earlier. While we waited, helicopters were called in to take up the injured to the hospital.

My mom had fallen off the edge, but luckily only fell about 15-20 feet and didn’t keep sliding. My dad had hurt his wrist, and his shoe had fallen off and down the cliff, but he was able to move. Michael was terrified and his stomach hurt where he had gotten hit, but was able to move also. The medical people came with all their equipment after about 40 minutes, and they started to work on my mom. They got her strapped into a sled like thing, and then called in another helicopter. They carried her all the way down and put her in the first helicopter, and my dad and brother had to walk down to the second helicopter and they both were flown to the hospital.

I was waiting down at the bottom, but only with cuts, bruises and slivers. We waited another hour until we were told what we had to do. None of us wanted to get back on those mules, but we were told we had no choice.

The ride back up took about 5 hours, and in those 5 hours there was another incident. There were 4 extra mules from people who went to the hospital, and another leader had come down to take them back up. He was on one mule, and trailing 4 behind, all attached to a rope which he was holding onto. Some hikers had left their backpacks in the middle of the trail, and those four horses wouldn’t go past them and that got them spooked. The leader was forced to let go of them, and the horse farthest back started to fall off the cliff. One of the other leaders came up and helped pull them back on the trail, but at the same time, the mule that had spooked earlier spooked again, but this time he was in the back of the group and was able to get under control.

The rest of the ride was pretty safe, and when we got back up there we had to fill out forms about what happened. My brother Jacob and I were then at the top of the Grand Canyon with our parents in Flagstaff Hospital 5 [actually 6.5] hours away. The rangers helped us pack up our trailer, fed us dinner, and drove us and our van and trailer to the hospital to meet our parents. By then it was about 1:30 in the morning. My mom had been released from the hospital with a broken ankle [Ann's ankle turned out not to be broken but she tore ligaments and tissues in her leg], and many scrapes and bruises. My dad however, had just gotten out of surgery. He had shattered his wrist, and they had to put basically a new metal wrist in the place of his shattered bones [actually it is a T-shaped plate with 5 screws and 3 pins]. Michael turned out to be OK but was on an IV for a while. Now my mom, Michael, Jacob and I were stuck at the hospital, with nobody able to drive and my dad still in the hospital bed. We had no choice but to sleep in the lobby chairs, which turned out to be a very sleepless night.

The next morning, my dad was not going to get out that day, so we were still stuck at the hospital. We called a taxi, and went to a nearby hotel where we reserved one night. Then we realized that we had no food, water, or anything to live by. So with 10 dollars in our pockets, my brothers and I walked to a grocery store and were able to buy 4 apples, a box of crackers, and cheese which would have to feed us for the whole day. But people were looking out for us and a pastor and his wife called us and they were willing to take us in for supper. They even already had company over, but they still helped us out. Once we were back home, then we fell asleep immediately because it had been a long 2 days. In the morning, we had to figure out what we would do next. My dad was released from the hospital with a broken wrist and again a few cuts and bruises. A friend of the pastor drove him to our hotel. We ended up calling my Grandpa (my mom’s dad), and he is going to fly out here from Michigan to “rescue” us. He will then drive us home, as quickly as he can in however many days it takes since neither of my parents can drive, especially with a trailer behind us.

It is a miracle that we weren’t injured more than this, because if my mom would have fallen 10 feet farther up the trail, she probably would have been dead. We all survived with only bruises and broken bones, and we thank God for that. Please pray for us as these next few days will not be easy for us, and it is definitely something to think about and to adjust to.

Alison De Rooy

 

For Part Two of the story click here.

 

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