Thursday, January 3, 2019

Man Severely Injured in Eagle Lake Hunting Accident

A tragic hunting accident took place last week at Eagle Lake. Although no one was killed, doctors were forced to amputate part of Matt Branch's leg after it was shot by a shotgun.  WBRZ (Baton Rouge) reported:

Former LSU offensive lineman Matt Branch is fighting for his life after a bizarre hunting accident in Mississippi.

According to WWL-TV, Branch was duck hunting when his shotgun accidentally fired and struck his leg. After being transported to a nearby hospital, doctors had to amputate part of his limb.

He remains in critical condition.

The Monroe native played for the LSU Tigers from 2009-2011 as an offensive lineman.

Friends and family have created a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses. Article.

Branch friend Micah Heckford posted more information on Facebook.

I know there have been many people wondering about the details of the hunting accident involving Matt Branch. Below is the most detailed description that I can recall from what happened.

On December 28, 2018 I was on an annual duck hunt with 4 very close friends in Eagle Lake, MS.

Matt Branch, David Joe Branch, Connor Branch, David Lamonte and myself.

We were hunting a cypress slough in the middle of a field. The game plan was to hunt spread out down the slough early, then regroup once the sun came up and hunt the remainder of the morning in one group where we could all be well hid. So far, everything had gone as planned, we had all killed a few birds early and were off to a great start on the morning. My buddy Matt Branch had walked down to where David Lamonte and myself were hunting and David Joe Branch had driven the ranger down to where we were so we could load up the decoys and gear to go set up in another area.

At approximately 9:40 AM, David Joe, David, Matt and I were all standing around the bed of the ranger and Matt had laid his gun down flat in the bed of the ranger and walked around on the passenger side to finish loading up. The dog jumped up into the bed of the ranger, getting ready to head out and stepped on the gun that had been placed into the bed, pushing the safety to fire, as well as hitting the trigger, resulting in the gun going off. The 12 gauge shotgun which contained 1 shell that was left in the chamber, fired through the side of the bed on the ranger hitting Matt in the upper inside of his left thigh approximately 2-3” from his groin.

 Matt screamed and fell to the ground. In the midst of the chaos at this point, I ran over to Matt to assess what had happened. We had no clue what the damage was at this point in time. I immediately yelled to David Joe to call 911.

As quick as possible, we picked up Matt and loaded him into the ranger. I jumped in the bed and David Joe took off driving. Our goal at this point was to get Matt to the nearest place we knew an ambulance could get to without getting stuck in the field. Being David Joe was driving and holding Matt, I was on the phone with 911 on the ride to the highway. We had about a mile or so to go through a muddy field. Once we arrived at the highway we unloaded Matt onto the ditch bank and laid him with his legs on the higher end of the ditch bank. His head and shoulders were laying in David Joes lap and I had Matt's leg up on my shoulder, holding pressure on the outside of his waders where I presumed the wound to be.

Within 5-7 minutes of us being on the ditch bank, 2 volunteer firefighter/first responders arrived with some medical supplies. We then immediately cut the waders and pants out of the way, got gauze and pressure applied directly to the wound and got an oxygen mask on Matt.

A sheriff and a game warden arrived to the scene shortly after, neither of which had any concern for the critical condition that Matt was in at this point in time. This is a whole other subject that can be discussed once we have Matt back in a completely healthy state. The ambulance arrived probably 10-15 minutes from the time the volunteer first responders got there. Once the ambulance arrived, a tourniquet was placed on Matt’s leg and we loaded him onto the stretcher and into the truck. The ambulance immediately took off to River Regional in Vicksburg, MS.

Since then, Matt has undergone multiple critical surgeries including the amputation of his left leg and re-connecting his femoral artery in his left upper leg. Matt is currently in a stable condition at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson MS. I have no words to describe what overcame us in such a critical time to be able to act and handle the situation as we did. This was a pure act of God’s hand and there is no questioning that.

I not only want to get the word out to as many people as possible for the love, prayers and support that we will need to get Matt on track to his long road of recovery, but also to remind all of my fellow hunters of the absolute seriousness of being the utmost careful when it comes to gun safety. I myself have been guilty of this so many times. Sadly, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have left shells in my gun while moving to a different location to hunt, or even wading around moving decoys between flights. I was even fortunate enough to grow up hunting my whole life around my dad and other men that always took the time to teach us the importance of gun safety. I know we all remind ourselves every time we hunt of the basics of being safe, not pointing our guns at one another, not swinging wide on a shot etc.…, But do we really ever grasp the seriousness of just how important it is?

I would like to encourage everyone that reads this to take the time to not only double check themselves going forward, but take the time to double check everyone else you’re hunting with as well.

DO NOT be afraid to be THAT guy on EVERY hunt that reminds EVERYONE multiple times just how important safety is.

Please DO NOT let complacency get the best of you. There was 80+ years of hunting experience amongst our group the morning this happened.

“Safety isn’t always safe. Treat ALL guns like they are loaded, at ALL times.”


Do it for me. Do it for you. Do it for your family. Do it for your fellow hunters.

There is no doubt Matt has an extremely long road to recovery ahead of him but there is nobody more confident than me that he will shake back and continue to live an amazing life and continue to impact others. If you know Matt, I know you feel the same.

I have known Matt for a very long time and I can assure you of this, he is big, he is tough, he is a fighter, and most importantly, he is no quitter. While we were laying on that ditch bank on the road side waiting for help, I told him that he was too tough to let a few BB’s hurt him, and I promise you, THAT he is.

This has been an absolutely traumatic experience for everyone involved including Matt’s friends and family. I cannot even begin to describe just how grateful we all are for the out-pour of love, support and prayers during this time.

From the deepest part of all our hearts,

Thank you so much.


Anonymous said...

Same exact thing happened to a friend on eagle lake 30 years ago....except there was no dog and they were high as a kite.

The fact that it was 10 degrees was the only reason my friend lived.

He’s still up in smoke to this day

Anonymous said...

Round in the Chamber is a rookie mistake. Hard to believe a dog can release the safety & pull the trigger on a shotgun at the same time. Further investigation is warrented. Could be a string of bad luck.

Anonymous said...

I could quite easily see how a dog could release a button safety and trigger at the same time

Anonymous said...

Sounds like he'd have us to believe the sheriff and game warden weren't acting like first responders?

Anonymous said...

as someone who hunts with a dog i can see this happening they get excited and all sorts of things happen. It is tragic that this happend and glad it looks like he is going to be Ok minus the limb. ALWAYS UNLOAD YOUR GUN IT TAKES ABOUT 2 SECONDS TO DO AND ABOUT 2 SECONDS TO RELOAD. BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY.

Anonymous said...

Methinks the dog story is a little fishy. Maybe Darwin was at work here.

"Here, hold my beer and watch this."

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment regarding 'sheriff and game warden'.

Anonymous said...

Four laws of gun safety:

1. Always treat a weapon as if it is loaded. This is the most important!
2. Never point your weapon at something unless you intend to shot it.
3. Always know your target and what's behind your target
4. Don't touch the trigger until you are ready to fire.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, leave loaded weapons laying around. As soon as you are no longer actively hunting/shooting, unload the weapon, double, triple and quadruple check this, including looking into the chamber.

Anonymous said...

With damage to the femoral artery he's very fortunate - he could have easily bled out in 5-7 minutes time. Not making excuses, but given the fact that folks with medical skills were on scene providing aid when the Warden and Deputy arrived, my guess is that they (the Warden and Deputy) were trying to stay out of the way. It sounds like the volunteer firefighters did a nice job and provided as stable a package as possible for EMS.

I'd be very surprised if both the Deputy and Warden didn't have IFAKs on board with at least one tourniquet - if they didn't offer their supplies to the other responders, that's a shame...

Anonymous said...

"Hard to believe a dog can release the safety & pull the trigger on a shotgun at the same time."

A very large percentage of pump and autoloading shotguns, the kind most often used for duck hunting, have crossbolt safeties. Normally they work right-to-left -- that is, you push them from the right side toward the left side of the gun to place the safety in the "fire" position. So if the gun was lying on its left side, as one commonly lays a right-handed gun down, all the dog has to do is step on it. Such a crossbolt safety is located approximately at the upper rear or upper front of the trigger guard. This places the safety within approximately 1/2" to 1-1/2" from the face of the trigger. A 70# hunting dog's paw, depending on breed, might be about 2-1/2" across. You do the math.

Also FWIW, those crossbolt shotgun safeties DO NOT prevent the firing of the gun. If working properly, they only prevent a trigger pull. It is possible for such guns to fire with the safety on, if the sear or some other lockwork part is jostled enough (such as in a fall or impact) or fails. If/when it fires, guess what it will hit? Just a word to the wise.

The whole mess obviously could have been avoided by adherence to Rules 1 (All guns are always loaded) and/or 2 (Never let the muzzle cover anything which you are not willing to destroy). Follow BOTH rules. Also follow Rule 3 (Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until your sights are on the target), Rule 4 (Always be sure of your target), and Rule 5 (Maintain control of or secure your weapon at all times). If you follow those, you may still have an accident, but you won't have a tragedy.

Change the Flag and Fill the Potholes said...

Safeties on the Beretta/Benelli trigger guards can easily be activated unintentionally - especially when over the shoulder with a sling. I've mostly had this happen walking around during turkey season when the gun shifts position and bumps into my vest. Not hard at all to imagine a dog's paw stepping on the safety and then a claw hitting the trigger. Going to remember this sad lesson...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting a detailed description of the accident. So sad someone was injured. I am amazed at the power of the shotshell. If I understand, it penetrated the truck metal structure and struck the hunter in the leg.

Anonymous said...

I can easily see how this happens. Lucky for him that all he lost was part of his leg. I will be reading this to my boys tonight as a reminder about why we unload our guns.

Anonymous said...

How is the dog?

Anonymous said...

"it penetrated the truck metal structure and struck the hunter in the leg."

It was a Polaris Ranger UTV, which has a plastic bed. Not that it matters.

Anonymous said...

I hope the injured man has the good sense to skip car wreck attorneys like Morgan and Morgan and call someone with direct experience in these matters like Tal Braddock.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the quick action of the volunteers and prompt response of the ambulance may have saved the man's life.

These volunteers have full time jobs and give a lot of personal time to provide emergency help to those in need all without receiving a dime.

Anonymous said...

3:49 please explain the Tal Braddock reference - there has to be a story behind it!

Anonymous said...

Every hunter should carry a tourniquet and learn self aid/buddy aid. I have personally seen it save someone twice. I have carried one in my pack for years. Fortunately he didn’t bleed to death. Hope he recovers and is able to share his story. Prayers.

Anonymous said...

“It was a Polaris Ranger UTV, which has a plastic bed. Not that it matters.”

Thanks, I was visualizing a Ford Ranger truck as I was reading the account but it makes much more sense knowing it was a ATV type vehicle.

Rick Ward said...

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