POWELL — Rain and loose rocks led to a dangerous situation in the Wind River Canyon on Saturday night as a landslide blocked traffic in both directions.
The Powell High School boys’ football team was returning home from a long road trip to Pinedale and arrived just after the fall.
“We were one of the first vehicles there, and we had parents on the other side who saw this happening in their mirrors,” Panthers head coach David Gilliatt said.
At the scene, the Panthers were hesitant to look down the slide, as they weren’t sure if there were more rocks sliding down. But knowing that the Wyoming Department of Transportation was unlikely to arrive for a long time, the Panthers swung into action.
“I think we all agreed after looking at it that we could pull the rocks out of the road on the far left and at least try to see if other vehicles and our bus could get through,” Gilliatt said.
When faced with the incident, Gilliatt and the team had a plan of action, as they had people watching the cliff in case more rocks fell. They also planned where they would run if more rocks fell into the canyon.
The team worked quickly and moved enough rocks in seven minutes for a tractor-trailer – along with other vehicles – to fit through the gap.
Gilliatt said the team took the message beyond the canyon to parents and PHS athletic director Scott McKenzie that it was going to be late because of the incident.
The only reported injury in the incident was a player’s minor cut, which was treated with a bandage. The bus lost a latch for one of the storage compartments underneath, but managed to squeeze through a tight space.
“I don’t think we thought it was anything big,” Gilliatt said. “We just kind of decided ‘Let’s see if we can tackle this ourselves.’ Many hands made quick work of it.
Right behind the Panthers men’s team was Michele O’BrienHampton, the mother of women’s team PHS players Jaedyn and Sarah Hampton. The girls’ team crossed the canyon 45 minutes prior, and O’Brien-Hampton was just minutes from the boys’ bus after they finished watching their game in Pinedale.
When she arrived, she was also right behind the Worland boys’ soccer team bus.
He was told there was a landslide ahead. She, along with the Warriors coaches, came up to see what had happened. The Worland boys jumped in to help clear the road, but the Panthers have already cleared the path enough for vehicles to pass.
“You can see they really are a team in every sense of the word,” O’Brien-Hampton said. “That also comes from great coaching.”
As she passed, law enforcement had arrived to take control of the guiding traffic. When she drove through the cleared opening, she felt a point of pride that it was “our football team” that stepped in to help clear the road.
This story was published on April 26, 2022.