The triumph and tragedy that have been Jeremiah Hancock’s life since a Friday afternoon crash ended on a very positive note late Sunday morning.
Around 11 a.m. the 37-year-old Lava Hot Springs man found his missing dog Buddy. The 1-year-old Pyrenees-German shepherd mix had been with Hancock in his GMC Sierra pickup truck when the vehicle collided with a Freightliner semi on Highway 91 south of Downey around 1:20 p.m. Friday.
The dog wasn’t seriously injured in the crash but was traumatized and took off running from the scene.
Hancock somehow survived being ejected and thrown 80 feet from his pickup when the vehicle overturned after the collision but that miracle was overshadowed by what happened next.
When Hancock’s father, Dean Bytendorp, 65, of Lava Hot Springs, arrived at the scene after the crash to help find Buddy he suffered a medical emergency. Despite Hancock and others providing CPR, Bytendorp died at the scene from an apparent heart attack.
Hancock put aside his own serious injuries and the grief he was feeling over the loss of his father and began searching for Buddy, who he last saw running from the accident scene near Red Rock Road.
Hancock started to hear about sightings of the dog in the Downey area and one lead he received via Facebook caught his attention. Someone had spotted Buddy near the crash scene on Saturday.
Hancock had searched for buddy Friday after the wreck until his injuries forced him to finally go to Portneuf Medical Center, where he was kept overnight. Hancock learned at PMC just how serious his injuries were. He had a lacerated spleen and a nearly broken hip.
After being released from PMC on Saturday afternoon, he again went to the Downey area to find his dog, searching for him until 5 a.m. Sunday.
Hancock said he went home and got a couple of hours of sleep on Sunday morning before heading back out to find his dog around 8 a.m. He decided to head back to the crash scene to follow up on the post he saw on Facebook that someone had seen Buddy near there.
Several people who had seen the news coverage of Buddy or heard about the missing dog via social media were already at the crash scene searching for him. Some were flying drones in an attempt to locate the dog from above.
Hancock decided to ascend the hill overlooking the crash scene and once on the hilltop he spotted Buddy nearby.
He said Buddy at first ran away from him and it took him a while to get near the canine. Buddy, still obviously traumatized from the crash, wouldn’t come to Hancock when he called his name. But the dog eventually let Hancock approach. Buddy, who escaped the crash with only some minor cuts, then recognized Hancock and realized his ordeal was over.
Hancock is obviously happy to find his dog but said it’s going to take a while for him to process the experience of surviving the crash, watching his father die and then losing and finding Buddy.
Hancock and Buddy weren’t the only ones in the pickup truck when the crash occurred.
Erich Johnson, 33, of Lava Hot Springs, and his 8-year-old border collie-mix Carl were passengers in the 2007 GMC Sierra driven by Hancock.
Johnson wasn’t ejected during the crash but suffered serious injuries and was transported via ambulance to Portneuf Medical Center for treatment. He was released from the hospital on Friday night. Carl suffered a broken leg when he was ejected from the pickup during the crash but is expected to survive. He’s currently being treated at a veterinary clinic in Preston.
State police said the wreck occurred when the Freightliner semi’s driver, Newell R. Jenkins, 77, of Bancroft, tried to make a U-turn while traveling southbound on Highway 91 and collided with Hancock’s southbound GMC Sierra.
The impact of the crash caused the GMC Sierra to careen off the left shoulder of Highway 91 and overturn.
Neither Hancock nor Johnson was wearing a seat belt, state police said. Jenkins was wearing a seat belt and did not require transport to the hospital following the wreck.
The wreck partially blocked Highway 91 for about 90 minutes.
Friday’s crash remains under investigation by state police who are expected to release more information on Monday.