“We’re lucky they’re all here with us:” Friends, family rally support for deputies, men hurt in bus crash on hunting trip

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Family and friends in Northeast Wisconsin are pulling together to offer support and raise money for four men critically injured in a bus accident Saturday morning on a hunting trip out west.

Two of the injured are sheriffs deputies in Brown and Marinette Counties.

Action 2 News first reported Monday that the four were on their way to Idaho when they hit an elk on an interstate in Montana, sending their mini-bus careening off the road and 70 feet down a ravine, crumpling it like a can before it landed in an area barely visible to passing traffic.

“From what I can tell, it looks like they nose dived, straight to the bottom, and the front end was very badly damaged, so we’re extremely lucky that they’re here,” says friend James Londree.

All four men -- Ryan Nystrom, Spencer Elias, Austin Carter and Branden Forst -- were seriously hurt.

Each has broken vertebrae.

They also have various head and neck injuries and other broken bones, and they all face very long recoveries.

“Austin called for help on 911. Austin and Ryan were responsive right away. Austin doesn’t remember calling at all,” says Londree. “We’re extremely lucky that all of them are still here with us.”

All four were air-lifted out of the ravine to different hospitals and have already undergone surgeries.

“They’re just selfless,” says friend James Londree, “and always thinking about other people.”

That’s the way most everyone who knows the men describe the hunting and fishing buddies.

“They’re always laughing, always joking... super tight,” says Londree, who’s also Carter’s cousin.

It’s been an emotional few days since he got word Saturday that they were involved in a crash that didn’t look or sound survivable.

Family and friends started a GoFundMe page to help the men with mounting medical bills and simply figure out how to get them back home.

Click here to donate to their GoFundMe.

“These guys are always the first that would be willing to help out each other and help everyone else,” says Londree. “Austin texted me yesterday and said I can’t thank you enough and can’t thank everyone back home enough for all the support. It means the world to them.”

“It’s just so shocking to get news like this. You expect to see a picture of somebody with their pursuit... an elk or a deer, and you get this message. I was just sick to my stomach when I got that news,” says Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve.

He’s thankful the men were able to get medical care so quickly.

Elias is one of his K9 handlers.

“He’s just an energetic officer, and I’m counting on him to get put back together and get back here at some point,” says Sauve.

“We’re used to going to those types of crashes and dealing with it from a work perspective, but then when it’s one of your own, it impacts you a little bit more,” says Captain Dan Sandberg with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

Nystrom was sworn in as a Brown County deputy in 2019.

“He definitely was a kid who stood out,” says Brown County Sheriff’s Captain Jody Lemmens.

She was able to talk with Nystrom Tuesday morning just before our interview.

“He just said for himself, he is starting his road to recovery. He’s feeling some improvements, and he couldn’t express enough of his gratitude for the outpouring of support,” says Lemmens.

Friends are offering support and prayers and trying to figure out how to get the men they describe as humble and genuine back home.

“They’re just selfless and always thinking about other people,” adds Nystrom.

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