Recently I had the opportunity to go to a symposium regarding the 2002 rescue of friends Ben Gowans, Jason Cox and Clay Craig. We were fortunate enough to have Clay Craig as our speaker. He gave us every detail by showing us a video that aired on Animal Planet’s hit show, I shouldn’t be alive: Chasm of Death. After seeing the story played out vividly, he gave the audience a more personal side where he shared the three men’s innermost fears and thoughts during this crisis.
In April of 2002, Ben, Jason, and Clay planned their yearly man trip to hike Leprechaun Canyon but none of them told their families where they were planning to hike. Little did they know that would be a huge mistake.
They started their early morning hike down Leprechaun Canyon for a few hours. Ben being the most experienced led the way. Reaching a fork in the canyon, they weren’t sure where to go. Ben had a GPS and a print out from a popular hiking website describing the trail. Because GPS was fairly new at the time and were known to make a few mistakes they decided to follow the picture on the printout. They took the right fork instead of the left which was the wrong choice. They continued on in ignorant bliss and didn’t know what was in store for them. Ben thinking that the end was close kept pressing on and urging them to follow. Going deeper into the canyon, Ben realized his horrible mistake that they had turned at the wrong place and were lost. Ben felt responsible for the safety and security of Jason and Clay so he decided to scale up and out of the canyon to go get help. He strapped on his hiking shoes and began his journey up the wall without any safety rope. The top was 60 feet above the canyon floor. He made the precarious assent and just needed to pull himself up and over the side. Only the ledge of shale that he was holding on to just crumbled in his hand and he lost all leverage. He fell from the wall and ricocheted across the narrow canyon, bouncing his head off both walls, then fell to the sandy bottom that cushioned his fall. Jason was the farthest behind and did not see the fall but heard the commotion. Clay saw the catastrophic fall but was too stunned to go over to Ben. He stood there shocked at what had just transpired. Jason finally caught up and they were able to assess Ben’s situation. He had severe head trauma with blood coming out of his ears, nose and mouth. They placed a pack under his head and waited for help to arrive. All they could do was wait. They waited for three days for rescuers to find them. At one point a helicopter flew right over the top of them but was not able to see into the narrow canyon. A ground crew found them on day three and signaled a helicopter over. They had to life flight Ben out of the chasm and he received the necessary medical help required to recover from his injuries. All three of them were rescued and made a full recovery. Their horrible experience was a lesson for everyone.
Make sure you are always prepared with the necessary equipment for whatever adventure you are about to begin. Receive the necessary knowledge to help you know what to do in a situation. Make a plan with your family for emergency situations.