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Utah park ranger Brody Young recounts near-fatal shooting

Published May 20, 2011 2:31 pm

Ceremony • Emergency workers honored by state.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Brody Young accepts credit for just the first 30 feet of his rescue.

With bullets in his lung, heart, shoulder, back, hip and groin, that was the distance the wounded Utah park ranger had to crawl to his patrol truck to call for help.

"I'd roll and stop and breathe. Roll and stop and breathe," said Young, recalling the Nov. 19 shooting at a trailhead near Moab.

But on Thursday, Young showed little sign of injury as he strode through the Capitol Rotunda to tearfully thank the people who took over after those 30 blood-soaked feet.

"I was laying on the ground, and I could hear the [radio] traffic — 'Let's get the helicopter' — and I knew they were coming," he said at the state's annual emergency medical services awards ceremony, which honored 20 people who helped save Young after he was shot nine times by a man he had approached about camping illegally.

As doctors prepped for Young's surgery that night, they warned Grand County EMTs that he probably would not survive the flight to Saint Mary's hospital in Grand Junction, Colo.

"He'd pretty much bled out already," said EMT Phillip Mosher. "He was at the bottom of his barrel."

Mosher and his crewmate Michelle Steele searched desperately for a vein that wasn't collapsed or bullet-riddled to begin Young's blood transfusions. During a short stop at Moab Regional Hospital, Mosher drilled a hole in Young's knee to deposit fluids directly into his bone marrow — a procedure that is normally reserved for patients whose hearts have stopped and are, therefore, unconscious.

Young was awake.

"I don't remember feeling the drill," Young said. "But the flush of blood when they pumped it in — I was screaming."

That Young survived is part good luck and part good work, said Grand County EMS supervisor Margy Baker.

There were small miracles: The bullet that remains lodged in Young's spine didn't paralyze him, and the bullet inside his lung rests between critical airways. The Moab hospital's blood bank, which Young all but emptied, was unusually well-stocked, and Young happens to be type AB-positive: the universal recipient.

But those lucky breaks were bracketed by the actions and choices by dispatchers, helicopter pilots, ambulance drivers, police, EMTs and doctors, Baker said.

"Any dropped ball by any one of these people, and Brody wouldn't have survived," she said.

Apart from the technical challenges, Baker said, this case was personal.

"We all know Brody," she said. "The fact that it was him raised the emotional level."

Steele remembered arriving at the scene already drained by an "exhausting" week with two child fatalities. She said she didn't even realize until Young was on the helicopter that she had been working in a dangerous, active crime scene.

"That didn't dawn on me until I saw officers dressed in black and all camo'ed out with big guns," Steele said.

Young, however, was well aware of the danger. He had pulled into the Poison Spider Mesa trailhead after 8 p.m. to speak with a man whose silver Pontiac was parked in the darkness. The man had no identification but gave Young a fake name and birth date. As Young walked to his truck to check the information, the man — now believed to be 40-year-old Lance Leeroy Arellano — shot him from behind.

Young fired back several times, emptying his gun and reloading.

Grand County sheriff's Deputy Al Cymbaluk and Moab police Officer Shaun Hansen heard Young's radio call for help and were first at the scene. Cymbaluk said he arrived to find Young trying to sit up and find the shooter, who had fled in the Pontiac.

"He was giving us descriptions of Arellano, the vehicle, the direction he went," Cymbaluk said.

Authorities have not found Arellano, who is thought to have fled into the desert with a gunshot wound he suffered in the shootout with Young.

But, looking back at the moment that Cymbaluk found him, Young recalled being focused only on his breaths, each one shallower than the one before.

"I really thought my lungs would fill with blood," he said. "When Al got there with Shaun ... hearing his voice was a godsend."

ealberty@sltrib.com