Elko, Nevada, resident Laura Neumann is healing.
On April 14, Neumann and her family were on the Golden Spike trail for a day of off-roading at Jeep Safari when a driver lost control of a Jeep and careened into the crowd. Neumann, 48, was run over as the Jeep crashed into a crevasse below the trail.
Neumann and her family said an orthodontist and a nurse who were on the trail kept her stable until emergency crews arrived within 15 to 20 minutes. Grand County Search and Rescue responded immediately to the call, but Classic Air Medical was able to get there first and Laura was flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction, Colorado, for emergency surgery. Her injuries were extensive, including damage to her hip, back and a compound fracture in her left leg.
“We were about three-quarters of the way through (the trail),” Neumann said. “One of the Jeeps went over an obstacle and made a U-turn toward the crowd. I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough and he ran me over.”
Neumann’s niece, Aubrey Clum, reached out to the Moab Sun News for an interview to share their story and clear up some misinformation. Clum said the family has hired an attorney to look into the accident. An eyewitness to the accident also offered information, but he asked to remain anonymous.
“Several vehicles were doing a rather hairy obstacle,” the witness said. “It’s sort of a two-part obstacle; imagine a small turtle on top of a big turtle. [The Jeep] had a little bit of difficulty getting over that top part.”
The witness said the driver was then supposed to drive down off the rest of the obstacle slowly. At the end, he came down off the side of it and at that point, he was “doing something that no one had instructed him or told him to do,” the witness said.
Instead of braking and slowly moving off the obstacle, the witness said the driver continued to accelerate toward “some rather ugly drop-offs.”
“In the process he then took a hard left turn,” he said. “There were people standing over in that direction. They scattered and one woman [Neumann] could not get out of the way in time and he either knocked her down or hit her right before he then went into [a] big crack, which stopped him completely. When it did come to a stop, the woman, you could see her in between his two tires.”
The Jeep in the accident was identified as a 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL driven by a Kansas-based YouTube content producer, Jeremy Felts, who goes by the username @AmericanJeeper. The Moab Sun News reached out to him for comment but did not receive a reply. His last picture shared to the social media site Instagram is from April 13, the day before the accident. It has received over 200 comments.
The driver did comment on a post on jlwranglerforums.com to address some of the rumors that have been going around and said, “I’m certain there are a million questions, some of which may never be answered. There is quite a bit of misinformation going around that unfortunately I am not in a position to correct presently. As you can imagine there is a lot going on with this, and feel it best to leave it at that for the time being as I work through things, try my best to stay positive, and cope with the aftermath.”
It’s no secret that watching Jeeps perform highly technical maneuvers on off-road trails poses risks. That said, some online forums have been less than sympathetic to Neumann’s circumstances, even blaming her for the accident.
The Moab Sun News asked the witness if any of the bystanders were in an area that would have been reasonably dangerous.
“There absolutely were not people in an area that would have been dangerous under normal circumstances,” he said. “Everybody was a pretty good distance away. Again, it was very strange, particularly that after the odd accelerating and coming down in an unusual and dangerous fashion off this enormous obstacle then continuing to accelerate … that’s what sent him into areas where people were standing.”
While speculation is rampant and some have thought that Neumann’s leg was severed during the crash, the surgeons at St. Mary’s Medical Center were able to save it.
Jeep Safari is certainly no stranger to crashes and injuries.
Moab is known for its world class off-roading trails and unforgiving desert environment. During the Jeep Safari event each year, the local population explodes, and with so many people vying for the same space, accidents do happen.
Grand County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) posted a video to its Facebook page to help people stay safe and the video highlighted some of the common causes of injury. In total, Grand County EMS said it responded to 42 calls during Jeep Safari, a quarter of which were vehicle accidents.
Still, they said that the chances of getting hurt during Jeep Safari are “really, really low.”
In the meantime, Neumann said her recovery is going well. She’s not walking quite yet, but was released from St. Mary’s Medical Center on May 4 after a knee reconstruction surgery and at least two podiatric surgeries. She’s now back home with her friends and family in Elko.
“I’m healing, doing good, I’m positive,” Neumann said by phone. “It’s gonna take some time, but I’m so thankful to the Red Rock 4-Wheelers and the others who helped us.”
It will be a long road to recovery, though. Due to the extent of her injuries, she may need additional surgeries, as well as physical therapy and household mobility modifications.
Despite all of this, she said she is determined to get back to what she loves: being outdoors.
In talking with her family, she said they will “definitely be back at some point for Jeep Safari, if not next year.”
Neumann offered a thank you message to those who have helped her so far.
“Shout out to Grand County Sheriff’s department and the (Classic Air Medical) helicopter,” she said. “I also want to thank Dr. Gammon for putting me at ease mentally and physically while I was there by myself.”
She also offered the same message of thanks to the bystanders who were on the trail at the scene.
“They’re my absolute heroes,” she said.
Clum has established a GoFundMe account for Neumann to help pay for her medical bills, which can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/lauras-journey-to-recovery.
Elko, Nevada, resident released from hospital following Jeep Safari accident
“I’m healing, doing good, I’m positive.”