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A Ford F-350 Super Duty hung over a deep gorge. Only its towing system and a vital piece of safety equipment held it back from plummeting. The family inside walked away with no life-threatening injuries. One simple safety precaution saved their lives.

2004 Ford F-350 dangles over a gorge

On March 15th, 2021, an Idaho couple had a terrifying accident. They lost control of their 2004 Ford F-350 while crossing a bridge over the Malad River. The pair were towing a camper when their pickup flipped over the guardrail and hung suspended nearly 100 feet over the bottom of the gorge below.

Multiple rescue agencies from the surrounding area converged to rescue the family. Impressively, the pickup held strong. First responders were able to remove both people from the truck using safety harnesses. Their dogs were removed from the pickup shortly after the owners. Tragedy was narrowly avoided, and all parties walked away safely.

What sent the 2004 Ford F-350 over the edge?

The accident’s cause is still unclear and likely under investigation: photos and video footage of the scene document extensive damage to the pickup. The rear axle and driveshaft are visibly disconnected from the body of the truck. This damage could have caused the accident or occurred as the truck went over the guardrail.

This damage is typical of a trailer-sway accident. Trailer-sway is one of the most common causes of fifth-wheel-related accidents. Wind gusts over geographical locations such as gores and canyons frequently sway drivers as they cross bridges. A gust of wind, coupled with the high center of gravity of a fifth wheel, could have caused the Ford F-350 to lose control and crash over the guardrail.

This is purely speculation. Any number of scenarios could have lead to the accident and the damage to the F-350. This incident brings the genuine dangers of towing into the spotlight. Thankfully quick action by first responders and responsible towing practices mean that this story has a happy ending.

The piece of safety equipment that held the 2004 Ford F-350 from chaos

A 2004 Ford F-350 suspended over the edge of a bridge by tow chains
2004 Ford F-350 suspended over gorge | Magic Valley Paramedics

This family saved themselves by responsibly securing their camper. They used standard tow chains, a common safety precaution, and it paid off. The chains securing the camper to the F-350 were critical in keeping the pickup suspended over the river. Without them, the accident could have ended in tragedy.

The Ford’s tow chains gave first responders vital time to act. Rescue crews added a second set of tow chains to the hanging Ford F-350 as a backup. A nearby semi-truck to provide further stability. The passengers inside the pickup bravely helped attach the second set of chains.

Towing is a dangerous but necessary process. It’s better to over-prepare before pulling a trailer, camper, or second vehicle. Taking the time to check lighting connections, install tow chains, and other making other preparations can mean the difference between life and death. Tow chains should be carefully chosen to fit the application. Err on the side of overcompensation. This nearly-fatal story is a reminder to use caution when towing recreational equipment.