by nathan oster
An ATV accident Friday morning on the Dugway Road north of Shell claimed the life of a 73-year-old Greybull man.
James D. Shelton was deceased when the first emergency personnel arrived on scene at 1:41 p.m. The search for him had begun nearly three hours earlier, at 11:10 a.m., when a call came into the county dispatch center from Shelton himself.
Sheriff Ken Blackburn said the call lasted about nine minutes. Shelton was “struggling to breath and talk on the phone,” but did provide the dispatcher who took the call, Gail Parker, with three key pieces of information that helped searchers locate the crash scene.
Shelton told her he’d been in an ATV accident, that the ATV had rolled on top of him and that it occurred on the Dugway Road. Once she had that information, Parker was able to get emergency responders heading in that direction.
“At the end of the conversation, the line remained open, but the subject was no longer talking,” said Blackburn, crediting Parker for doing “a heck of a job” during the nine-minute conversation.
Blackburn described the location as being above Dr. Meredith Scott’s Double Rainbow Ranch and on public land. What the investigation revealed, Blackburn said, is that Shelton was riding his four-wheeler up not only an incline, but also a side incline, and that it became top heavy when the rear wheel struck a rock.
Shelton was thrown off the four-wheeler. He rolled down the embankment, ahead of the machine, and landed on “the uphill side of a tree.” The four-wheeler followed, coming to a rest directly on top of him.
Shelton was able to get to his cellphone and make the call to the dispatch center, but responders were unable to reach him on time. Blackburn said even if he’d been able to communicate effectively, it’s doubtful they’d have made it on time due to the extent of his injuries.
Blackburn called it “purely accidental,” but said in cases such as this one, it’s left to the county coroner to determine the official cause of death. He also offered his condolences to the family of the victim.
In two related items, Blackburn said it was “nothing short of a miracle” that Shelton even got his call through to the dispatch center. Cell service is spotty in the area, and while on scene, neither the sheriff’s deputies nor the deputy coroner were able to place calls.
Blackburn said the accident is also an example of how GPS technology could aid first responders. If GPS can provide the location where emergency calls originate, personnel will be able to reach the site all the faster. The county commissioners approved the purchase of the GPS technology earlier this month and Blackburn said it’s just a matter of putting it in place.
“It wouldn’t have made a big difference on this one, but in other cases, it could make all the difference in the world,” he said.