HLG Graduate remembers "A river of blood"

Seth Mendenhall helping a Haitian child during the mission trip last year, days before the crash. / HLG

Monday marked one year since a truck carrying a group of Hannibal-LaGrange University students and their advisor ran into the side of a mountain during a mission trip to Haiti. Miraculously everyone survived, but their physical and mental recovery continues. Some, including the group's advisor, Chris Brennemann, suffered serious head and other injuries. Others like Seth Mendenhall are dealing with injuries you cannot see.

Mendenhall said, "I do remember seeing almost instantly a river of blood running off the mountain."

A year later, Seth Mendenhall still sees the horrific scenes on that Haitian mountainside and those images still haunt him.

Mendenhall said, "A couple of them, clinically speaking, shouldn't be here, but thank God they are."

Mendenhall was a nursing graduate, and thought his skills would be needed in country after the massive earthquake there. He and another nursing student even bought bags of supplies to help injured people they might find. Then the unthinkable happened - the truck the group was riding in crashed into the mountain.

Mendenhall was thrown out of the truck with such force he slid more than 60 feet to the edge of the cliff.

Mendenhall said, "All I saw was blue sky and I felt the gravel underneath my body. The whole time I was sliding, I was waiting for the truck to slide over me or on top of me."

The only thing that stopped him from going over the cliff was a rock that left a nasty gash in his head.

Mendenhall said, "The first thing I remember was opening my eyes and I was already on my feet. To this day and always I will believe that it was an angel that stood me up. There's no other way; I don't remember stopping; I don't remember anything but being on my feet."

And the sight he'll never forget.

Mendenhall said, "Bodies laying everywhere. I was 60 feet away from the truck and there were bodies all around me."

That's when he looked for his pack of medical supplies he had placed on the truck. The accident had thrown all thirty people from the truck ... but his bag was right where he had left it on the now-smashed truck.

Mendenhall said, "There is no reasons except that God made it that way so that we could all survive and get off the mountain."

Then he went to care for the first person he saw.

Mendenhall said, "I opened up my backpack and the saline fell out. It was like God was shopping with us before we left because he knew what we were going to need and I used every single bit of what I brought."

Seth says he'll always carry inner scars, but this accident strengthened his faith.

Mendenhall said, "It was like I was put there for that one day and that one afternoon; it's a constant reminder that He has a purpose, even if you don't see at first."

The group's advisor, Chris Brennemann attributes her survival to the quick thinking of Mendenhall and the other nursing student. Now Mendenhall is a pediatric nurse at Hannibal Regional Hospital.

By the way, Mendenhall and that other nursing student are dating, partly because of the bond formed on that trip.