A former Long Islander is grateful that several Good Samaritans and a park ranger came to his rescue after he broke his leg while hiking Christmas Eve in a national park in Texas, where the government shutdown limited emergency services.
Joshua Snider, a native of New Hyde Park who now lives in Austin, Texas, had invited his friend Michael Bright to spend the holidays on a three-day hiking trip with him at the 1,252-square-mile Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas.
Snider, 26, is an avid outdoorsman who said he wasn't concerned by a notice on the park's website saying “emergency services remain available, but response times may be delayed" because of the partial government shutdown.
“I was just excited to come when the park was going to be less busy,” Snider said Saturday. “But, yeah, it turned around to bite me a little bit.”
After hiking and camping for two days, the two friends hiked to the end of the 1.7-mile Santa Elena Canyon Trail around 2:20 p.m. on Dec. 24. There, Snider slipped on a rock while climbing about 6 to 8 feet up boulders and tumbled down into the water below. The fall fractured his fibula and tore several ankle ligaments.
“I immediately knew that I broke my leg,” Snider said. “I had never felt that kind of pain before, and I couldn’t put any pressure on it.”
Injured, cold and wet, Snider was helped to the river bank by Bright. As the two tried to figure out what to do next, a family of four came by and offered their assistance.
Park services later told them emergency responders were not available to help Snider due to the shutdown and limited staff.
“A government shutdown is the worst time to get hurt in a national park because resources are the most limited,” said Bright, 26, of San Francisco. “I definitely felt we were impacted by the shutdown.”
Despite the news, Snider said he was focused only on trying to get to safety. “I was just thinking, ‘Let’s get out and let’s get going because I am cold and tired and I want to go home,’ ” he said.
The family and Bright carried Snider back along most of the 1.7-mile trail, when they met up with a park ranger working unpaid that day. Identified only as “Matt,” the ranger carried Snider on his back for the rest of the two-hour return to the start of the trail. Bright then drove Snider to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, Texas at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve. Snider flew to New York City on Dec. 26 for surgery.
A message on the national park phone said officials were not available because of the shutdown.
Now back at his family’s New Hyde Park home after a successful surgery in Manhattan, Snider, whose leg will take at least three months to heal, said despite his injury and the problems the shutdown posed for him, he was moved by his rescuers' compassion and kindness.
“If there wasn’t a shutdown, I probably would’ve been able to get out in a more efficient way,” Snider said. “But it also showed me, especially with this park ranger working unpaid, it showed me the dedication that some people have for their jobs and have for the greater good of society. It shows a beautiful part of humanity that you don’t see every day.”