Search and Rescue member counts his blessings after parachute collapse sent him plummeting to the ground

Jeff Hunt at his home in St. George, Utah, Feb. 16, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Though Jeff Hunt sustained multiple injuries – including a ruptured aorta, a broken femur, hip, pelvis and ribs, as well as bleeding on his brain and pancreas – seven weeks ago, he’s in pretty good shape.

Jeff Hunt at his home in St. George, Utah, Feb. 16, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“Almost everybody who sees me says that I look better than they thought I would,” Hunt told St. George News. “More than anything, I feel blessed.”

Hunt was paragliding over Snow Canyon when two gusts of wind collapsed his parachute and sent him plummeting to the ground.

“I don’t remember much,” Hunt said. “I was in and out of consciousness. What I remember is two people helping me, and looking down on Snow Canyon as Life Flight flew me to the hospital.”

The two people who helped him were Adam and Robb Dye. Adam Dye is a nurse practitioner. If not for him, Hunt said he may not be alive today.

Jeff Hunt (foreground) and Brad Roper (background) paraglide over Church Rocks in Utah, Sept. 27, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Brad Roper, St. George News

“He stabilized my leg and kept me from moving,” Hunt said. “He took care of me until the medics arrived.”

Of course, Robb Dye said he still felt the need to pray over Hunt as he lay waiting for medics to arrive.

The following two weeks are mostly a blur, Hunt said, as he underwent various surgeries.

“My memories from that time are still fragmented. In fact, eight of those days are mostly black. I was wrecked. I almost died.”

One thing he does remember is that his wife didn’t speak to him for nine days.

“She was in shock,” he said. “She’s my rock. If we traded places, I don’t think I would have been as strong as her.”

Undated photo of Jeff Hunt and his family. | Photo courtesy of Brad Roper, St. George News

A member of Washington County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue, Hunt found himself on the receiving end of a rescue – and it changed his perspective.

“Before, I was paying it forward,” he said. “Now, I have a whole new respect for those guys. I’m blown away by their selflessness. There are so many people involved in my rescue and recovery – first responders, doctors, nurses, aides, my family – that went above and beyond.”

The show of support didn’t stop there. As Hunt was recovering, he received $15,000 in donations. It all went to medical bills, Hunt said, who manages four local Jimmie John’s restaurants. The paraglider itself cost about $10,000.

“Best $10,000 I ever spent. The views are priceless.”

When St. George News asked if he’d ever fly again, he paused.

“I ask myself that all the time. It’s hard because I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t being reckless, wasn’t goofing off. There was nothing in the forecast. It was a great flight up until that gust of wind, which was a freak accident.”

Hunt said that paragliding is statistically safer than riding a motorcycle, so he kept wondering if the accident was his fault.

“I kept asking three questions: What happened? Was it pilot error? Was it my fault?”

Hunt said that, considering what he’d been through – the crash, the injuries, the slow but steady recovery – he’s in good shape. Why shouldn’t he fly again? Still, Hunt said he thinks of his wife and kids.

“Will I fly again? I just don’t know. The first thing I need to do is get back on my feet. Then we’ll see.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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