YOUNG, AZ (KTVK) — A Glendale couple who rented a cabin for a long weekend retreat were injured after they drove their Jeep off a cliff in the remote mountain wilderness near Payson.
Shanelle Bates said she and her husband, Matthew Kunowski, arrived in Young, a community north of Lake Roosevelt in the Tonto National Forest, Thursday evening. They were there with their dog for a relaxing weekend getaway.
Needing supplies, the couple took their Jeep north on Forest Service Road 512 to SR260 and made their way to Star Valley to shop. It was late when they began their return trip, back down FS512, that’s when the trip took a turn for the worse.
According to Bates, her husband was driving down the dark dirt road when he looked away for a split second. The next thing she remembers is tumbling down a cliff.
They fell about 80 feet down a steep incline, the Jeep coming to a rest down the side of the hill.
“I’ve had that dream since I was a little girl, falling off a cliff like that. And when it starts to happen, I couldn’t tell if it was real,” said Bates. “I thought I was dreaming again.”
Bates had briefly passed out after the fall. When she awoke she realized she was still strapped in the Jeep. Her husband had been thrown clear of the vehicle.
She crawled through the windshield and found her husband whose injuries were apparent.
Together they struggled up the side of the mountain back to the road, but they were still a couple miles from Young.
After walking for two hours, they found a cabin where someone could get help for them.
Emergency crews arrived and they were both airlifted to a Scottsdale hospital for treatment.
Bates was discharged from the hospital Saturday. Kunowski appears to have a longer road to recovery.
“His jaw is broken… both his cheek bones are cracked and his ribs are broken,” said Bates. “His face is wired shut, however, he’s able to walk around and he can communicate with notes.”
With hefty medical bills and both unable to work, they are trying to raise money to help with expenses through a GoFundMe account.
“There was something watching over us for us to be able to go through what we went through and make it out of it. It’s beyond belief,” Bates said.
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