Lovell Fire Dept. rescues four after vehicle slides off Five Springs Campground road

Ryan Fitzmaurice

What was reported as a slide-off at the Five Springs Campground Sunday ended up being a whole lot more than that.

Emergency personnel were called out at  3:54 p.m. Sunday to a slide-off with unknown injuries. 

“We weren’t really too excited about going to a slide-off. That’s kind of a wrecker’s job,” Lovell Assistant Fire Chief Bob Mangus said. “Anyway, Doug Butler of Search and Rescue, who lives right there, called Wes (Mangus) to see if he thought he should run up and check it out. So, Butler goes up there and calls Wes back and says, ‘Heck, this vehicle has been rolled and there’s four passengers.’ I was like ‘Oh, crap.’”

Mangus said when emergency personnel reached the scene, they saw that the vehicle in question had gone 40 yards down a ravine. 

A grandmother and her three grandchildren were in the vehicle. An elementary-aged juvenile had been ejected and was sitting on a snow bank with visible injuries. The other
two juvenile had exited the vehicle, sporting bumps and bruises. The adult was still sitting in the vehicle. 

“What had happened is the three kids were with their grandmother and then their parents were ahead of them. They rounded the corner, got up above and it got really slick and started spinning. He stopped to put his (four-wheel drive) in. She pulled up behind him in her suburban, and when she pulled up behind him, the suburban started going backwards with her brakes on,” Mangus said.  “The dad said the last thing he’d seen was the Suburban going over the hill, backwards, out of sight.”

Mangus said it appeared the car slid off the road, went end-to-end once, landed on its top and then flipped over again, went across the road below, and off of that road into the next ravine, landing on its wheels. 

“In the meantime, we started our ropes crew truck just in case we had to get people up to the road or something like that. We didn’t think we would need them, but we sent them anyway,” Mangus said. “Since that call was made it probably saved us 30 minutes.”

The rope rescue went without an issue, Mangus said, and none of the occupants of the vehicle received life-threatening injuries. The ejected child needed stitches, and the grandmother stayed overnight in the hospital, released soon after. 

“They got lucky. A crash like that. Can you imagine going over that backwards not knowing what the heck you’re going to hit?” Mangus said. 

While the ropes team did their job expertly and without a problem, the ambulance crew responding to the scene almost needed a rescue crew of its own. Thankfully, they found good fortune. 

“It was so slick, we turned the ambulance around where it was dry and backed him up the best we could to get him as close as we could, and as it was sitting there the ambulance started to slide down the ice,” Mangus said. “Just sitting there, it was sliding. That’s how slick it was down the road. It was treacherous. Even us positioning our vehicles for the rope rescue, we had to park the vehicles on dry ground or they wouldn’t sit.”

Lovell Fire, the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Department and North Big Horn Hospital EMT services responded to the call.