Grandfather Dies Saving His 13-Year-Old Grandson During Car Accident

Credit: Amanda Kerley
Credit: Amanda Kerley

He had promised he'd always keep them safe.

Amanda Kerley’s father always said he’d never let anything happen to the ones he loved. He lost his life while making good on that promise.

Last month, Jerry Greenough, 63, shielded his 13-year-old grandson as the pair plummeted 150 feet down a mountain while off-roading on a New Mexico trail.

“Given the opportunity, he’d do it over again,” Amanda Kerley told of her father’s act. “That’s just who he was.”

Greenough, Kerley’s husband Tony Kerley, and the couple’s twin sons, Austyn and Tyler, had traveled from Oklahoma to New Mexico for a boy’s camping trip at the time of the accident.

Tony and Greenough take the trip annually, but this was their first trip with Austyn and Tyler.

On Sept. 2, the second day, the group was headed down a familiar trail in Red River, with Austyn and his grandfather in one Jeep and Tyler and his dad in another.

Greenough was trailing behind his son-in-law when the tire of his Jeep got caught on a rock. As he tried to accelerate, the vehicle slipped off the trail and down the mountain.

Austyn had radioed his father to help, but Amanda Kerley said it all happened so fast.

“He jumped out of the Jeep and ran yelling, screaming for help,” she said of her husband.

Greenough held onto Austyn and comforted him during the fall.

“Austyn remembers the entire accident,” Kerley said. “I asked him ‘Was papa scared?’ And Austyn said he just kept on telling him, ‘Papa loves you. You are going to be okay' and he kept on repeating that."

Greenough had died by the time the Jeep stopped rolling. Austyn was ejected from the car, winding up 10 feet away. He was severely injured.

Austyn’s father jumped into rescue mode and rappelled down the side of the mountain. With the help of Austyn’s twin brother, he was able to carry the 13-year-old back up.

Austyn was airlifted to University New Mexico Hospital. By the time the he arrived, he’d lost 40 percent of his blood.

His spleen was badly ruptured. He had severe internal bleeding along with a punctured lung, broken ribs, a broken clavicle and a lacerated pancreas and liver, among other injuries.

Kerley said she flew in, not knowing whether her son would survive.

After six days, however, doctors slowly began lowering Austyn’s sedation and although he couldn’t speak, one of the first things he wrote down was, “Is papa okay?"

"He wrote it about 20 times," Kerley said. "We couldn’t tell him because we didn’t how he would respond.”

Eventually Austyn divulged what he remembered of the accident. Kerley said she was in no way surprised by her dad’s heroic actions.

“To know that my dad sacrificed his life for my son, he was selfless and he showed no fear so that my son wouldn’t be afraid.”

Austyn has since been released from the hospital and is recovering at home.

“He is doing really good, considering what he has gone through. He is the most positive little boy,” Kerley said.

Greenough’s funeral is set for Thursday.