Elvis is alive and well after helping his owner
October 3, 2002
Elvis Lipke tried desperately Tuesday afternoon to find help for Scott Lipke after their Ford Bronco veered out of control and tumbled down a steep hillside.
Elvis, an 8-year-old German shepherd mix, and Scott, a 36-year old fly-fishing guide, were ejected as the vehicle rolled down several hundred feet in the Shale Bluffs area and into the Roaring Fork River. But unlike his owner, Elvis was not injured.
With Scott lying on his back with five broken ribs and a badly injured shoulder, Elvis took off upstream to search for help. The dog soon found Jay Coarsey, who was more than a mile away fishing on the opposite side of the river. Elvis spent the next hour coaxing him downstream toward the accident site.
“He was like Lassie,” Jay said. “Man. I’d love to have that kind of dog.”
Scott, who resides in Marble, remained in the hospital for observation yesterday following one of the most bizarre traffic accidents in memory.
It occurred at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, when Scott and Elvis were traveling downvalley on Highway 82 through Shale Bluffs, the cliffs and steep hillsides between the airport and the turnoff for Snowmass Village.
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“I kind of remember getting a flat ? a blow out ? and getting forced into the rail,” a groggy Scott told The Aspen Times in a telephone interview from Aspen Valley Hospital yesterday.
Evidence at the scene indicates the Bronco hit the guardrail and continued downvalley another 70 feet, well past the end of the guardrail.
The Bronco crossed the shoulder and into the soft dirt on the roadside, as if Scott had been pulling over to stop. But instead of straightening out and stopping, the tire tracks indicate the Bronco continued turning to the right, back toward the edge of Shale Bluffs until it went over the side.
Colorado State Trooper J.J. Robinson said his preliminary investigation was pointing toward the conclusion that the Bronco’s steering was compromised by the collision with the rail, and Scott couldn’t stop it from turning right when he tried to pull over. Robinson said Tuesday night that he believed the only way Scott could have avoided going over the edge was by stepping hard on his brake immediately after hitting the guardrail.
The next thing Scott remembers after hitting the rail is being in a lot of pain on the hillside. He also remembers asking his rescuers about Elvis.
“He’s definitely my buddy ? that was the first thing I asked about when they got to me,” Scott said.
Rescue personnel looked all around the area ? and under the Bronco ? for signs of the dog without success. Elvis was still missing as Scott was loaded into an ambulance around 3:30 p.m., an hour after the crash.
Elvis, meanwhile, trotted upstream until he spotted Jay across the river. “He jumped in the river and swam across to me. Then he stood there next to me. He wouldn’t leave,” Jay said.
Jay continued to fish. Elvis continued to wait.
“I was thinking this is my dog. That would be a great dog to have at my feet while I was fly fishing,” he said.
After several minutes, Coarsey began working his way downstream toward his truck, which was parked on the highway on the upvalley end of Shale Bluffs. Whenever Jay stopped to fish, Elvis would begin whining and crying and running a little way downstream and back.
“Every time I stopped to fish, he would cry. So I carried on down the stream,” Jay said. “It was amazing, he wanted me to keep going down the river to the accident.”
When they reached the trail up to Jay’s truck ? still a quarter mile upstream from Scott’s mangled Bronco ? Elvis wouldn’t leave the stream side. He whined and yipped to no avail as Jay was still unaware of what had happened at the other end of Shale Bluffs.
“That dog was trying to get me to go back to the river,” Jay said. “If I had known about what happened, I would have gone all the way down.”
Instead, Jay coaxed Elvis up the hill and loaded him into his truck. Jay turned onto the highway going downvalley, toward the accident scene.
It was about 5 p.m., and a sheriff’s deputy was standing near the scene, apparently working on a plan for pulling the Bronco out of the river and up the hill.
Jay asked the deputy if he knew anything about a missing dog and was told no. He got back into his car and started back to Aspen. A short time later he found the deputy he had spoken to and some other law enforcement personnel gathered near the bus barn, across from the airport.
Again he pulled over and asked whether they knew of any reports about a missing dog ? and this time they said yes. “He didn’t want to go with the cops,” Jay said. “Pretty smart dog.”
After Jay was confident that Elvis would not have to spend the night in a kennel, they parted ways.
After a checkup found no injuries, Elvis was released to a friend of Scott’s who will keep him until he gets out of the hospital.
“That owner should be pretty darn proud of that dog,” Jay said. “Elvis deserves a medal, if you ask me.”
After being told the story yesterday, Scott simply said, “Wow, that’s amazing, isn’t it?”
[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]