Cody couple dies in crash on Clarks Fork Canyon trail

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A Cody couple died Friday afternoon when their off-road vehicle tumbled down a steep portion of the Morrison Jeep Trail in the Clarks Fork Canyon.

Allen Heald Phillips, 69, and his wife Annette, 66, were ascending the trail with a group of friends around 2 p.m. when the fatal crash occurred.

"While no one actually witnessed the crash, statements from the Phillips’ companions and evidence at the scene indicated that the couple had attempted to negotiate a hairpin turn in the trail and took the switchback too wide," Park County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lance Mathess said in a Saturday news release. "They then attempted to back up to get a better angle on the turn but in doing so, accidentally backed over the edge and tumbled down four levels of the trail before the [side by side] came to rest on its top in the middle of the trail below."

The crash was reported to the Sheriff's Office at 2:47 p.m., with the initial information being that one person was dead and another critically injured, Mathess said. Emergency personnel from multiple agencies — a deputy from the Sheriff's Office, Park County’s Search and Rescue Unit, Clark Fire, Clark First Responders, an ambulance from Powell Valley Hospital and a helicopter from REACH Air Medical Services — were immediately dispatched to the canyon.

At 3:25 p.m., REACH Air Medical was able to land its helicopter in the canyon, a half-mile from the crash scene. Their medical personnel then hiked up to the scene, but found both Phillipses had died. 

Their bodies were recovered by members of the Park County Search and Rescue Unit, assisted by Clark Fire, and brought out of the Clarks Fork Canyon around 8:30 p.m.

The Morison Jeep Trail (Forest Service Road 120) is located southwest of Clark, approximately 4.5 miles from the end of Wyo. Highway 292. It is made up of a steep set of narrow switchbacks that ascends some 5,700 feet to the Beartooth Plateau, Mathess said. The trail has been closed by Shoshone National Forest officials until further notice.

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