Preventing Off-Roading Accidents: Lessons From A Fatal Mudhole Incident In AZ
A father of three was killed this past summer in the mountains of Arizona in an accident that never should have happened.
I guess I can call it a cautionary tale as it was preventable, but the weirdness and unlikeliness of the tragedy means we will likely never have it happen to us. But knowing about it and perhaps saving at least one life makes it worth repeating.
In the summer of 2022, a man named Ryan Woods went out off-roading in his heavy-duty pickup with his family. At some point, Woods got his truck stuck in the mud to the point he couldn't get it out.
The story is picked up by the Colorado 4X4 page from here: "They ... were out in their Ford Super Duty with their kids in the back seat playing in the mud, enjoying the thrill of sliding sideways, spinning the tires, splashing through puddles, all while navigating through years of man made tracks filled with deep mud holes that would challenge the most capable of vehicles.
"Well soon into the adventure, Ryan came across a mudhole that sunk his 4-ton beast. Even with a rear locker and 4x4 he was swamped, unable to budge the truck. With all 4 tires spinning, he was stuck with no way of getting out without a tow. So like every other time he’s gotten stuck, he called upon a good friend he’s known for 20 years. This friend, a known off-roader, racer, and mechanic came out in his 4x4 hoping for just a quick pull out of the mud so he could get back to his Jacuzzi waiting for him at home."
The friend attached a tow rope to Woods's front tow point and then wrapped it around his "drop down hitch with a 2-inch ball connected to the rear of his 4WD truck."
A couple of minutes of tugging failed to free the Woods' truck from the mud, so the friend decided to get more of a head start to see if he could get the big pickup released from its mud prison.
"Knowing more force was needed to pluck this 9,000-pound truck out of the mud, he backed up a few feet to get a better start. That turned out to be too much stress for the ball hitch when the extra tension was created by the force of the pull. It ripped the drop down portion of the hitch off of the truck, sending it and the strap directly toward Ryan's truck, smashing through the windshield, directly where Ryan was in the driver's seat. The force was so great, it ripped through the windshield and bent the steering wheel before ultimately striking Ryan in the face, ending his life."
With his family in the truck, witnessing the tragedy, a day of fun and excitement turned into a day of cataclysmic sorrow.
It was a simple act of service, a friend helping a friend, when the awful accident took place.
Sure, tragedies happen all around the world on an everyday basis. But this one was close to home and oh so preventable.
"Whenever going out off-roading it’s inevitable that someone can get stuck. Use the PROPER recovery gear and NEVER USE A TOW BALL!"
That advice from the Search and rescue community. And advice that could save a life.
RIP Ryan Woods, 7-7-1979--7-26-22.
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