JEROME — A Magic Valley man is lucky to be alive after being hit in the chest Sunday by a ricocheting bullet near Devils Corral.
“I’m feeling very lucky,” Dr. Andrew Schweitzer said Monday morning. “It was a scary thing.”
Schweitzer, a third-year medical resident, and Dr. James Irwin, who works at St. Luke’s Jerome, were loading mules into a trailer after riding in the Devils Corral area when he felt a sting several inches below his throat. Luckily, he was wearing layers of clothing plus a vest that absorbed much of the blow.
“The crazy thing about where the ricocheting bullet struck me is that my aorta lies right beneath that location,” Schweitzer said. “Had it gone through, I would be almost assuredly dead.”
Irwin is a frequent visitor to the Snake River Canyon — either recreating or picking up other folks’ trash. It was Schweitzer’s first trip. No one was around when they had parked at the fork in the road above Devils Corral. But when they returned from their ride, they could hear shooting all around them.
“I heard a bullet ricochet,” Schweitzer said. “Then I felt something hit my chest. I was in total shock.”
Irwin had a strong opinion about restricting shooting north of the canyon even before Schweitzer was hit. “People shouldn’t be shooting along the rim,” he said.
“We were unsaddling the mules,” Irwin said. “All the sudden, (Schweitzer) grabbed his chest and he goes down. That scared me.” He called the Jerome County Sheriff’s Office and left a message to report the accident.
The Sheriff’s Office told the Times-News they had reached Schweitzer on Monday to arrange for him to file a report.
Schweitzer and Irwin found a man and woman shooting pistols on the other side of a berm from where they had parked.
“We talked to them and explained what had happened,” Schweitzer said. “They were very apologetic; they’d never shot there before.”
But Irwin said they couldn’t tell exactly where the bullet came from.
Jerome County wants to establish a safe shooting zone in its 4,000-acre Canyon Park near where Schweitzer was shot and, in December, sent a letter to the Idaho Department of Lands asking the agency to restrict shooting on its endowment lands along the rim.
“I was sincerely hoping something like this would not happen before we could locate shooting in a safer place,” County Commissioner Roger Morley said in an email Monday.
Commissioner Cathy Roemer agreed.
“I am concerned as well about the safety in this area,” Roemer said in an email, “and (I) support actions to protect the people who are recreating out there.”
“It’s a cool area, and it would be great to improve the safety there,” Schweitzer said.
People shouldn’t have to dodge bullets when recreating, Irwin said.
“Bullets fly a long way. We’ve got to do something about this before someone gets killed.”
“I heard one bullet ricochet. Then I felt something hit my chest. I was in total shock.” Dr. Andrew Schweitzer, a third-year resident in family medicine