According to the St. Charles County Police, their unit “responded to the Lewis & Clark Trail around 12:23 p.m.” on Saturday, May 8. There, they found that “a hunter accidentally shot a hiker, thinking he was a turkey.”
Since the weekend, trades have learned that the hiker, who was traversing the “well-utilized” hiking area, has been hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Sadly, “his condition is unknown,” SCCPD details in their post, which they continue to update via Facebook. “This remains an active investigation,” they note.
Reporting on the incident Tuesday, PEOPLE clarifies via a St. Charles Ambulance District spokesperson that the trail is “located in the Weldon Spring Conservation Area” off Highway 94 in Missouri. The area is a hot spot for MO hikers, making the incident all the more baffling – and tragic.
A fellow Missouri hiker, Nancy Phillips, tells NBC’s KSDK, “This is a freak accident, I think. I always purposely wear my bright colors, so no hunter mistakes me for anything.”
Unfortunately, the “remote location of the incident” led to officials resorting to Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs) to reach the victim, the St. Charles Ambulance District spokesperson adds. As soon as the victim was reached, first responders found the hiker’s injuries to be “very serious and most definitely life-threatening,” with the time it took to reach them factoring into the severity of his condition.
Speaking to the incident, an unidentified witness also tells KSDK the victim “was covered with a yellow tarp” at the time. “I could see… His torso. He didn’t have his shirt on, and [paramedics] were working on him.”
Hunters & Hikers Overlapping Leads to Potentially Deadly Consequences
Afterward, the “severity of the traumatic injury” had authorities airlifting the victim to a local hospital with a Level-One trauma center. PEOPLE states the hiker “currently remains” in intensive care via their contact.
The victim’s hiking trail of choice, The Lewis And Clark Trail, has seen a large surge in use since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As more and more return to outdoors as the original social distancer, the likelihood of hunters and hikers overlapping in potentially deadly fashion increases.
One local hiker, Perry Gabbard, tells CBS Missouri’s KMOV “I think it would be appropriate to keep heavily trafficked areas like this just open for hikers.”
“There’s children and older people, I see a lot of age groups. Over time it just decreases the probability of it happening,” Gabbard adds.
Moreover, Luke Niemeyer, both an avid hiker and hunter, tells KMOV that the situation is “pretty alarming.”
“It’s a pretty large mistake and it’s not easy to do… A turkey is only two feet tall. A human is what, five feet? And there’s two different sounds and it just should have never happened,” Niemeyer says.
The Missouri Department of Conservation, however, tells KMOV there are currently “no immediate plans” to for safety improvements. The organization cites that “these incidents rarely happen.”
PEOPLE says they’ve yet to receive a response from the Missouri Dept. of Conservation via their own inquiries.