Tuesday , December 29, 2015 - 10:26 PM2 comments
NORTH OGDEN — As her SUV slid over the cliff, Sarah Crenshaw knew it would be bad.
“I started praying, ‘Don’t let me die on Christmas.’”
Driving slowly west along the North Ogden Divide road in a foggy snowstorm just before 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, Crenshaw had her Jeep Liberty in four-wheel drive and low gear. She had been on the notorious mountain road hundreds of times and knew what to expect.
But that day, everything happened too fast. Her vehicle scudded over a precipice and tumbled about 100 yards into a ravine.
“I was creeping around the corner, and it was like someone sprayed black ice. The next thing I know, my car was sliding toward the embankment, but sliding parallel,” she said. “I was still aimed in the right direction but just slid off and over the edge, and I could see it coming.”
The Weber County Sheriff’s Office report on the wreck said Crenshaw was going an estimated 20 mph. She was not cited.
“I already knew it was going to be bad. I couldn’t see past the snow, but I knew I was going off something pretty steep.”
In an interview Monday, Dec. 28, Crenshaw, 48, of North Ogden, described her flight down the mountain.
Next came a blur of bracing, gripping the wheel, tucking in her arms, putting her head down. The Jeep rolled side over side numerous times, smashing into boulders and trees, each tumble and impact as disorienting as the last.
“I tucked my elbows in to keep them from flailing out the window,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘I can’t panic.’ I tucked my head down as far as I could, and it started rolling, I can’t count how many times.”
The Jeep’s convertible top was shredded off as the vehicle rocked down the mountain. Crenshaw was wearing her seat belt, so she was held inside the disintegrating vehicle.
“Every time it rolled I saw a boulder and something crunched and trees were coming in. It seemed like it went on forever.”
The Jeep crashed to a stop on its wheels, 320 feet below the road as measured by investigators. Fortunately, another driver saw Crenshaw go over the cliff and called 911.
Crenshaw sat in the destroyed Jeep, marveling that she was alive and felt calm.
She said she has been on disability for years after a brutal attack that left her with post traumatic stress disorder. She said PTSD saddles her with paranoid, sensitive feelings. “Someone with PTSD should not be driving off a cliff,” she said.
But after the Jeep stopped, “I wasn’t scared,” she said. “I’m bleeding, but I was not freaking out.”
Looking up at the sky in the sudden quiet, snow still falling, she said she remembered something her late grandfather often told her: “Sarah, at least you stuck the landing.”
“I started laughing. Yeah, I stuck the landing.”
A rescuer finally reached her, having climbed down the mountain.
He said, ‘I can’t believe that you’re alive,’” Crenshaw said. She said she told him, “I’d better be or my husband will kill me.”
She told the man she thought she was OK. She said rescuers thought she was in shock. But she was treated and released from McKay-Dee Hospital later in the day.
In the interview, Crenshaw catalogued her injuries. “I was poked in the cheek with a stick, just a minor cut. I bonked my head several times and have black eyes and some scratches and bruises.
“I’ll take that any day over what the alternative was,” she said. “It was a miracle. I’m alive, and that’s all that matters.”
Her totaled Jeep remains at the crash site, so inaccessible that Crenshaw expects it will still be there after she’s dead and gone.
On Dec. 27, one week to the day after the wreck, Crenshaw drove back over to Eden, this time behind the wheel of an old Mitsubishi SUV. She’s driven to Eden and back almost daily for the past eight years. She helps care for her elderly parents and an older sister, and feeds and waters their horse and llama.
Of the drive, she said, “I’m not going to let myself be afraid of it. If I go off the cliff again and die, that will be OK. Every time you drive it you see something different, the wildlife, the beauty.”
Plus, for people in North Ogden and the Ogden Valley, it’s convenient.
“It might be a scary road, but if you’re not stupid and you drive like you’re supposed to, you’re OK,” she said. “i just would not suggest doing it in a snowstorm.”
You can reach Mark Shenefelt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801 625-4224.
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