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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Four Injured In Elk Hunting Accident

Issue Date: October 14, 2020

It started with four friends, a mini bus, and plan to hunt elk for the first time in Idaho. However, the trip of a lifetime was cut short when an elk found them first in Montana.

The four friends, all now hospitalized with very serious injuries, included Marinette County Sheriff's Deputy and Canine Handler Spencer Elias, Brown County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Nystrom and friends Austin Carter and Branden Forst.

The four were driving to Idaho in a mini bus camper for their hunting trip in the early morning hours on Saturday, Oct. 10 when an elk came into the road. Their vehicle hit the elk, spun out of control, and careened off an embankment, plunging 70 feet down a ravine before landing in an area barely visible to passing traffic.

Carter was able to call 911 for help, but reports are that he did not remember calling. All four occupants of the crumpled vehicle were seriously injured. They were airlifted out of the ravine and rushed to a nearby hospital in Miles City, Montana and then promptly transferred to Billings when it was clear their injuries were too severe to be treated in Miles City. Each of the four men had broken vertebrae and various head and neck injuries and other broken bones. They all face very long recoveries.

At Billings, doctors determined that Forst and Elias would need to be transferred again in order to get the treatment they needed, and they were taken to Salt Lake City, UT.

Carter and Nystrom are being treated at Billings Clinic Hospital in Billings. He has broken vertebrae in his lower back, a broken pelvis, and broken sternum. He had one surgery for his back on Saturday and another surgery on Monday, Oct. 12 for his pelvis.

Nystrom is being treated at St. Vincent Hospital in Billings.  He has sustained neck, upper back, and leg injuries, with broken vertebrae in his upper neck and back, as well as a broken tibia. He had surgery for his leg on Monday

Forst and Elias are being treated at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Forst sustained head and lower back injuries, and has broken vertebrae in his lower back, a broken orbital, sternum, and toe. He had surgery for his back on Sunday, Oct. 11, and more chest x-rays and continued monitoring of his head injuries was expected, according to reports.

Elias sustained head, neck, and back injuries.  He has had surgery for the broken vertebrae in his back late Saturday night, and his head and neck injuries will continue to be monitored. He also has a broken bone below his eye that will need to be looked at when he can be moved closer to home. 

All four are reported to be conscious and communicating at various levels with their loved ones with them at the hospital, and each has at least one family member with them.

Family and friends have started a GoFundMe page to help the men with mounting medical bills and simply figure out how to get them back. This effort was spearheaded by Leah Wainwright of Wausaukee, who said all money raised will be divided evenly among the young men. The Go Fund Me page was started because with the Coronavirus pandemic, in-person fund raisers were not considered feasible. She asks that everyone keep the victims in their thoughts and prayers, and said she has been told that the outpouring of thoughts, prayers and love is so strong that they can feel it from halfway across the country.

As of Wednesday morning, Oct. 14, there had been more than 372 donors to the GoFundMe account on their behalf.

Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve told reporters he is thankful the men were able to get medical care so quickly. He described Elias as an energetic officer, and said he is counting on him to get put back together and get back here at some point.

Nystrom was sworn in as deputy with the Brown County Sherif's Department in 2019. Brown County Sheriff's Captain Jody Lemmens described him as "... a kid who stood out."


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