With the accident during the Dirt Riot Race in Moab so fresh in our minds, it has caused me to stop a moment and think.
For those unaware, Christopher Hower was involved in a tragic accident while taking pictures during the Dirt Riot WEROCK rock crawling event on April 4th, 2015, in Black Ridge, Utah. Chris ventured into an unauthorized area and was struck and killed by a vehicle as it came off a jump on the track’s course.
I can see myself in the young man who lost his life in his quest for a great picture. We all love to have those great action shots of our jeeps going through a particularly nasty mud hole or over a grueling obstacle and I love trying to get them for you. A lot of the time, in order to get those pictures it requires getting into the water, mud or tick infested brush or climbing to the top of a sandy, slippery or rocky hill, all the while praying that the jeep coming towards you sees you’re there. When I’m out taking pictures, I try to make myself as annoyingly visible as possible in my bright, fluorescent orange shirt and my husband puts a call out over the CB that I’ve gotten out of the jeep and am on the trail. Even so, I’ve had my share of heart stopping moments of jeeps bouncing a little too close, or moving through a water hazard a little too fast and losing sight of me in a surge of water over the windshield.
We have to remember that our jeeps can be big, dangerous machines. We build them to survive the trees, trails and ORV parks. This makes them unforgiving when accidents bring them in contact with a delicate human body. When you’re out there, keep a mind for your surroundings. Try to keep your speed in check, even though splashing through that mud puddle is the greatest feeling since you were five and playing in the rain. Watch for obstacles in the trail and approach them with caution. Gunning the gas and tearing a strip out of that tree across the trail makes you feel burly and accomplished, but the jeep behind you might not like the branch you just kicked into his windshield. If your photographer is out in front of you, and you’re not sure if you’ll need extra speed, or if you think you might bounce off a rock, give a holler and have them move back until you feel comfortable with their position. In the same breath, if you are that photographer, think long and hard about where you stand, squat and climb to get that great shot of oncoming jeeps, they might not always know you are there.
The death of Chris was great tragedy. It could have been prevented with a few cautious thoughts, but I know, when you’re in pursuit of that one in a million shot, personaly safety sometimes takes a back seat. My thoughts and condolences go out to his family, friends, the race driver and everyone involved in the events of April 4, 2015 in Utah.