FWC Owner Survives 300-Ft Mountain Rollover and Fall

Claims Four Wheel Camper Saved Life

Fifty-two-year-old Marine veteran Sean Silvera was stoked when he completed work on his truck camper build in January. He purchased the best suspension upgrades for his Ram 2500 that money could buy, installed an imported aluminum tray outfitted with all the bells and whistles, and topped it all off with a brand-new Four Wheel Camper (FWC) Flatbed Hawk. In all, Sean spent $175,000 on the rig, but the results were worth it.

“It was a one-of-a-kind truck,” Sean said. “It was a Ram AEV Prospector XL, so it was on 40’s. It was their full build. I put one of the first PCOR4x4 off-road trays on it from Australia. I put a Hawk Ute flatbed camper on it and really built that out for off-grid travel. They put one of the very first Redarc systems in from the factory, put lithium batteries in, and put two solar panels on top. In the tray itself, I had another 30 gallon water tank put in with a pump. I mounted a big 16.5ti Warn winch on the front of the truck and another 12.5 Warn winch on the rear, so I figured I could get out of anything I ever got myself into.”

The contractor and married father of one was ready to travel and see the world in his new Four Wheel Camper. Then the pandemic hit. After weeks of seclusion in the city, and suffering from a severe case of cabin fever, Sean decided to spend a weekend at his rural, mountain property near Laytonville, California. By the time he got there, it was raining heavily.

Sean needed Internet access to send some important documents for work and his cabin didn’t have it. Remembering that a nearby mountain had decent cell reception, he decided to take his camper, newly outfitted with a Weboost Drive X Cell Booster, to the top where he could send the documents. His massive tires slipped in the mud as he climbed the narrow forest road, but he wasn’t too worried because his truck was equipped with 4WD and lockers. Tree branches were his biggest concern.

“Being a flatbed camper on a lifted truck with 40-inch tires, the camper was taller than most,” Sean recounted. “I always swerved to get away from branches on the right side to avoid scratching it. There was a part of the road that was narrower than most and I remember turning away to avoiding hitting the top of the camper and the left side got really close to the edge of the road, then the road just collapsed. The back of the truck went down first. The first rollover was end-over-end, so I went back bumper to front bumper and hit a pretty big oak tree that broke. Oak trees don’t break that easy, but collectively the truck and camper weigh about 10,000 pounds. I don’t know how many times I rolled—I’m guessing five to seven times—and landed at the bottom of the ravine totally upside down.”

Miraculously, Sean wasn’t hurt during the 300-foot rollover and fall. In fact, he walked away without receiving so much as a scratch. The four air bags deployed almost immediately protecting him from the violent, rolling impacts. Sean also believes the 1,400-pound camper protected the cab from crushing in on him. No doubt, the Four Wheel Camper’s size and rugged aluminum frame provided just enough protection for Sean to walk away from the horrific accident.

“The air bags came out and I was upside down in the bottom of a ravine,” he said. “I didn’t know what actually happened at first. I didn’t black out, everything happened so quick within the first roll everything turned white because all of the air bags deployed. I was upside down at the bottom of the ravine saying to myself, “what’s going on?” I had one of those belt cutter-window breaker tools and, of course, I didn’t have it mounted. It was stuffed in my driver side door pocket and it flew out somewhere. Thank, God, it didn’t hit my head. I was able to unstrap myself, but I couldn’t get out because I was wedged in between a ravine and I couldn’t really see outside the front because of the air bags. I could see light though the passenger side air bag, but you can’t kick air bags, so I couldn’t kick the window to get out.”

Getting safely out of a vehicle quickly after a major accident is a must. Fire is the biggest danger anytime gasoline or propane is involved in an accident. As Sean began looking for a way to get out of the mangled, upside down truck, he noticed two things—smoke and the smell of gasoline.

“The thing that bothered me was that there was smoke in the air, but it was actually powder from the air bags, and I could smell gasoline from a leaking, small can of gas. It was a diesel truck, so I wasn’t worried about the truck catching fire, but I was worried about the gas, so it freaked me out a little bit, but it was just the idea that I couldn’t get out. I was out in the middle of nowhere and I had my .45-caliber pistol handy, so I shot the passenger side window out, through the air bag.”

Injuries caused by deploying air bags are pretty common in automobile accidents. These include fractures to the face, ribs, and skull, concussions, as well as serious injuries to eyes and ears, but there’s no doubt that the four air bags helped save Sean’s life. In his case, the worst part of the air bag deployment was the extraction. Getting out of the truck was easier said than done.

“There’s just no way to get out with an air bag deployed,” he said. “I don’t know what the process is to deflate air bags once they’re deployed, but I didn’t have a knife and didn’t have anything to break it. I don’t know what people are supposed to use to get out, so I had to resort to using the next best thing.”

What Sean saw after safely extracting himself from his truck was shocking. The truck and camper were completely separated, trees were toppled, and debris was lying everywhere. Sean needed help, but there was no cell service at the scene of the accident. Fortunately, Sean had a Garmin InReach satellite communicator with him that he used to text a friend for help. Within 20 minutes, help was on the way.

“I wasn’t injured in any way. I wasn’t even sore the next day,” Sean recalled. “I never felt an impact. But I could see where the truck impacted the side of the hill. The rig took out a yard of soil. The ground was soft from the rain. The axles were broke and the rear springs had flown out. The welds were ripped apart on the truck. I never felt a thing. I think the camper really cushioned a lot of the impact and then, of course, the suspension and tires helped a lot. I was really lucky. I need to find religion. It still freaks me out a little bit. There’s no good reason for walking out of that canyon. There’s no good reason. Where the truck stopped and where I went over the hill was almost a perfect situation. I little bit further up the road and I would’ve went over a cliff.”

So did Sean have any trouble with his insurance company after this horrific accident? Fortunately, no. State Farm insurance covered all damages to both the truck and camper. His agent got photos and a complete description of the rig beforehand and covered everything. The only problem Sean had with the claim was extracting the wreckage. This had to be done before Sean could file the claim. Unfortunately, he had to pay for this service and locate a company capable of performing such work by himself. With a 300-foot drop in a very remote location, it was difficult finding a towing service that could do it. Sean eventually found one, but it was very expensive. The total cost for the entire extraction effort was an eye-popping $11,800.

So what are Sean’s thoughts now that the dust has settled and he has had a few months to reflect on everything? “Something that is very clear to me is that I should not have walked away from the accident without a scratch. I’m very grateful for the quality and durability of the products and manufacturers that I used on the build. Ram, PCOR4x4, AEV, Four Wheel Campers, Rhino and others all took the hit for me. I don’t mean for that to sound like an advertisement, but I’m really grateful for the fact that the camper prevented the cab from crushing in on me and that the tray held the truck and camper together long enough to protect me,” he said.

Details of Sean’s Four Wheel Camper Flatbed Hawk Build:

  • 2018 Ram Laramie 2500 4×4 upfitted with the AEV Prospector XL
  • Spod electronics with factory AEV dash mount switch pod
  • Locking console gun safe
  • Garmin Inreach with dash mount and hard wired
  • Rhino Pioneer platform roof rack with side lighting
  • ARB locking front and rear differential
  • ARB onboard twin air with air chocks on both sides
  • Air lift air bags with wireless built in two way compressor
  • Daystar air bag mounts
  • Dynatrac ball joints
  • Dynatrac frespinn hub kit
  • Patriot Campers Off-Road “PCOR4x4” tray
  • Front (16.5ti) and rear (12.5) Warn Winches
  • Factor 55 super hook
  • Factor 55 recovery gear
  • Five auto locking doors/drawer in PCOR4x4 tray
  • 30 gallon water tank and switched water pump in tray
  • Full surround switched lighting on tray
  • 2020 Four Wheel Camper Hawk Ute/Flatbed
  • Full Four Wheel Camper option list… Plus
  • Redarc manager 30
  • Two Battleborn Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) Batteries
  • Two 160 watt overland solar panels
  • Xantrex 2000 watt Inverter with auto transfer switch

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About Mello Mike 502 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently owns a 2016 Northstar Laredo truck camper hauled on a diesel-powered 2013 Ram 3500 pickup truck. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management several years, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side.

9 Comments

  1. I just read this story. Sean, I like everyone else am glad your alive and well.
    Jesus Christ, spared your life for a reason. If you don’t have a personal relationship with him now would be a good time. Find a good bible believing church where you live.

  2. We too rolled our rig. While driving home to Arizona from an exhausting six-week ordeal closing up a deceased relatives house, I was driving a U-Haul rental and my husband was in our 2016 Chevy Colorado diesel mounted with a Fleet Four Wheel camper. On an interstate in Illinois, he mysteriously disappeared from my rear view mirror and I took the next exit, uncertain what to do next. Eventually, he called from his cell phone. He had fallen asleep and drifted into the median at full speed, hit a ditch, rolled the truck, and lost the camper. The camper was crushed, our pickup bed was a trapezoid, the back of the cab dented, and the rear window broken. He walked away without a scratch. I have no doubt that the camper saved him from severe injury. But–in filing a claim we learned that our camper wasn’t covered even though I had called during the installation and was told that “it was attached to the truck” so it would be….Turns out the agent was wrong and we had a total loss on that investment. On our new camper, they seemed confused again, but I insisted on a separate rider for the camper. Check your policy!!

  3. What a crying shame, that was a setup that most of us would be glad to have. I’m glad he survived to hopefully try again. I think the lesson for everyone is when offroading be always mindful of your vehicle’s size in all dimensions.

  4. That’s a great build but I can’t help but wonder two things…

    – How fast was he driving in those poor conditions?
    – the Center of Gravity (COG) of his build is clearly too high and contributed to the rollover..

    • Irresponsible and hopefully he paid for road repairs and tree work on our public lands. How much damage was caused extricating his rig. Also how much fuel went into the ground. Was this remediated?

    • I’m willing to cut him slack on this one. When the edge of a road collapses it doesn’t matter how high or low your center of gravity is, you’re going over. I personally saw it happen to a 60-ton tank – the outer 3 feet of road collapsed (it had been raining for a week) and over it went.

      I also won’t make the assumption he was driving too fast for the conditions. “…turning away to avoid hitting the top of the camper” doesn’t translate to excess speed in my mind. If memory serves, that tank was doing about 2 mph when it went over.

      Let’s all be grateful he survived intact — even if his rig didn’t — and take the obvious lesson away that road edges in the wilderness can be unstable.

      And since

  5. Yikes! What a vivid tale of construction, destruction, and redemption. The upside is that you survived relatively unscathed. As i grow older I don’t have the ‘chops’ I once had crawling around in my Jeep for determining what road or trail surface is doable or not. It’s the same atrophy that comes with the Lockdown: just the fact of not keeping your chops up, off road is a worthy caution. It sounds like it was also just bad luck.
    I”ve had maybe a dozen low speed rollovers in my built, rock crawling Jeep CJ-8 that offered you a teaching moment; and one, off the cliff; 125 feet down; forward endo (where the rear end comes over your head) plus 4 barrel rolls in crescendo near Telluride that destroyed my 1990 Jeep XJ. I counted the rolls by counting the upside down pressure on my seatbelt. But nothing as bad as this. I was relatively O.K. (cracked 3rd vertebrae). The insurance company did cover the high towing bill.

  6. Wow! I am so glad Sean is alright! This will be something he will never forget. I rolled my Toyota 4×4 when I was 18 years old, I am 50 now and have never forgotten that moment.

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