OKLAHOMA CITY -- A family recovering after a devastating loss now has something special to remember their lost loved one with, and they have a community of Jeep-lovers to thank.
“When I was little, we’d all go off-roading together and I always rode in the back with him and my nana,” said Maddi Kerley, who was recently given her grandfather’s Jeep.
Maddi now has the exact same Jeep her grandfather, Jerry Greenough, owned.
Last September, Greenough was driving the Jeep in New Mexico with his 13-year-old grandson, Austyn, when tragedy struck. The Jeep fell 150 feet off the side of a mountain with the pair inside. Austyn was the only survivor.
“He wrapped his arms around Austyn. He stayed calm the whole way down,” said Amanda Kerley, Austyn and Maddi’s mother.
Austyn lost more than 40 percent of his blood and had numerous injuries, including a punctured lung, broken bones and the loss of his spleen. Over the last six months, he’s miraculously healed from many of his injuries. Even helping his family to rebuild the Jeep in memory of Greenough.
“I feel like he would be pretty happy about it,” Austyn said. “I feel like it feels different. But it still looks the same. I’m glad that it’s here and not scraped or anything. I’m glad we were able to rebuild it.”
One of the last wishes Greenough had was to give Maddi his beloved Jeep on her 18th birthday.
The family made that possible with some help from Red Dirt Jeeps, who provided many of the parts.
“Red Dirt Jeeps, our three things are family, friendship and community. So, we hope to honor him and help her celebrate and make tons of memories,” said Megan Watham, Co-President of Red Dirt Jeeps.
“They made it possible for us to be able rebuild this Jeep,” Amanda said.
The Jeep now stands identical to how Greenough designed it. But Maddi added a final touch by naming it “Fire Ant,” a nod to how the insects rebuild their homes as a community after they’ve been destroyed.
“I believe that this accident was something that came over our home and crushed it, and as a family we stayed positive and worked to build it back up,” Maddi said.
On Thursday, Red Dirt Jeeps organized a convoy to honor Maddi’s grandfather. Nearly 40 Jeep owners will follow Maddi and her family down Memorial Road, as they take “Red Dirt” on its first official outing.