Elk hunting accident -- Colorado


October 25, 2006, 04:04 PM
What a tragedy for all involved. I'm not a hunter, so perhaps I don't understand: why was the son "walking along" with a round chambered/safety off? Wouldn't it be prudent to keep the safety on or chamber empty until your target is in sight?

Please be careful.

Elk hunter accidentally shot to death by son

By Rocky Mountain News
October 25, 2006
A 66-year-old Ronkonkoma, N.Y., hunter died when his son's gun accidentally fired and hit him in the chest last evening, the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning.

Joseph DiBiasa Jr. was hunting with a group including his son, Joseph Michael DiBiasa, 41, near Fitzpatrick Mesa yesterday, according to Undersheriff Richard Besecker.

As they were walking, a sling broke on a 7mm magnum rifle the younger DiBiasa was carrying. As he tried to catch it before it hit the ground, he inadvertently pulled the trigger, and the bullet struck his father.

Besecker said it appears the victim died instantly.

No charges are being sought against Joseph DiBiasa. A pathologist is conducting a post-mortem investigation.

link (http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_5092741,00.html)

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October 25, 2006, 04:33 PM
Totally avoidable.

I never release the safety until I'm locked on to the target and ready to fire. Also never chamber a round until I get out of the vehicle, unload and load after climbing an obstruction and always empty prior to getting into a vehicle.

October 25, 2006, 04:49 PM
And, don't attempt to catch falling firearms.

What a terrible happening.

October 25, 2006, 04:55 PM
I have never allowed my kids to chamber a round untill they were actually in the blind and hunting. They aways unloaded the gun before walking back to the house. They were never allowed to shoot running game anyway, which is what they would most likely see walking to or from the blind. Still, this is as sad as it gets for all involved.:(

October 25, 2006, 05:54 PM
A safety, even when engaged can fail. The 4 rules of gun handling still apply, whether hunting or target shooting.

The amazing thing is... this stuff really doesn't happen that often, and Hunter's Safety Courses are a good part of why it doesn't happen often.

While it's too late for those involved in this tragedy, it's not for us. CHECK the safety, use your head, don't point a gun at anyone.

October 25, 2006, 08:33 PM
A safety, even when engaged can fail.
True fact!

Art Eatman
October 25, 2006, 11:34 PM
An effort to catch a falling rifle is a reflex thing and is generally unstoppable.

I generally leave the bolt handle up, and don't use the safety. If "just travelling" with others, separate from actually hunting, I generally don't have a round in the chamber. The bolt is fully open "in case of in case I see something".


October 25, 2006, 11:50 PM
An effort to catch a falling rifle is a reflex thing and is generally unstoppable.

I disagree. I've had to carry long guns of all types in the woods up here, and I make a point of taking ones that I don't worry too much about. If they fall (and they sometimes do), I let them fall. That goes for Mosins to Mossbergs. In fact I'm not averse to throwing them on the ground--unloaded of course--to emphasize their role and purpose. I think a lot of folks are taught from a young age that firearms are fragile and delicate things. So they grab for them. But any firearm that will break if dropped does not belong in the wilderness.

October 26, 2006, 12:49 AM
Emergency rooms have quite a few people each year being treated for cuts from catching falling knives. I'll agree with Art that it is hard not to grab for something that is falling.

October 26, 2006, 08:26 AM
That is a tragedy for all involved. So sad.

As for catching falling objects, I agree with the reflex camp. I've learned to stop going for falling knives, only AFTER seeing somebody get stitches from trying to stop one with his foot (true story). Now I kind of jump back and make small. A firearm? Can't say for sure.

October 26, 2006, 08:34 AM
I generally leave the bolt handle up, and don't use the safety.

I used to do the same thing...that is to say when we ran into each in the woods, came up to the house, or were leaving to hunt from the house I would flip the bolt handle up with a live round in the chamber. At a later time, I could put he bolt handle back down and engage the saftey. That was when I hunted mostly with Rugers.

About 15 years ago I got my first Sako. It is a super rifle, a Lightweight Hunter in 308, 7 pounds 12 ounces fully loaded with a Leupold 2.5-8. Anyway, I found out (quite by accident) the bolt trick dosen't work quite as well with this rifle.

My brother and I were up at the house for lunch and getting ready to go back out. We were standing in the yard talking, my bolt handle was up as was his. I had the rifle by the sling on my shoulder with the muzzel pointed towards the sky. Everything fine. While I was gripping the rifle I bumped the trigger and noticed an audible click. That should have been my first clue, but it wasen't. We seperated, he went around one side of the house and I the other both heading toward the back. While the gun was on my shoulder. I reached around and slapped the bolt closed as I had done a hundred times before. BOOM! That was the last time I ever did that! Fortunately the only thing I shot was the sky. Sometimes we just dodge the bullet (dumb luck?). I hunt with a Ruger No. 1 now and flipping the lever open is much safter on this gun. My son uses the Sako (he shot his first deer with it and wouldn't give it back) and I made him aware of the problem.

Gun accidents can happen to anyone at any time. If you think you are above it, I don't want to hunt with you! The more you handle a gun, the more the odds increase that you will have an accidental discharge. The only people that don't have ever have an accidental discharge are the people that never handle a gun(even they can be a victim). Keep the muzzel pointed in a safe direction at all times and never point a gun at anything you would not want to shoot!!

October 26, 2006, 01:29 PM
Just teach yourself to let the rifle hit the rocks. Unload it and drop it on purpose. Concentrate on just stepping back. Ram the buttstock into trees. People are too gentle with their firearms.

October 26, 2006, 03:29 PM
I assume you are using an unscoped rifle?

October 26, 2006, 07:56 PM
Jet22 -- elk are not hunted from a blind. You must walk if you want an elk.

I will never own (famous last words) a Win Mod 70 because of hunting with some family members who had them: their safeties were always being bumped off just from walking through the trees and brush. And there were rounds chambered. My brother traded his for a Savage after that hunt.

A sad, sad story.

Old Time Hunter
October 27, 2006, 08:44 AM
Very sad. Why is there a need to have a live round in the chamber while hiking?

Harve Curry
October 27, 2006, 11:04 AM
I'm with Art. There is alot of merit to carrying with the bolt slightly open. I've been doing it for decades with lever actions, bolts, falling blocks and break opens. It safer then a safety and the gun can still be made ready quickly if needed. But generally it's not taught as an option in Hunters Safety.

October 27, 2006, 03:36 PM
Year before last on a hunting trip, my Dad (who is honestly the safest guy I know when it comes to guns) had an AD that was a real wake-up for all of us.

We'd been hacking and beating our way through some really heavy brush, and our assumption is that a branch or something must have pushed his safety off - he hunts with a Remington 7400 in .30-06, and it has one of those push-button safeties behind the trigger. The gun was hanging from his right shoulder, and he reached around with his left hand and grabbed it near the trigger to take it down. It was around 5 or 6 degrees that day, and he had a heavy pair of gloves on, and apparently grabbed the trigger in the process.

Thank God the gun was pointing straight up in the air when it went off, but it was pretty scary. Dad's hat landed a good 10 feet away from him, and he couldn't hear much out of his right ear for a few days.

October 27, 2006, 03:49 PM
I've got a .22 that I tried carrying with the bolt partly open, but the bolt on that gun closes pretty easily. Unslung my rifle one day to discover that the bolt was fully closed, just from being bumped at some point.

October 27, 2006, 05:43 PM
Emergency rooms have quite a few people each year being treated for cuts from catching falling knives. I'll agree with Art that it is hard not to grab for something that is falling.

My father worked for Wilkinson Sword in the UK, a lab technician dropped a double edged razor blade and instinctively attempted to catch the blade.

The tech caught the blade between his right forefinger and thumb, realizing he had now almost severed the tip of his finger and thumb he instantly dropped the blade.

Now this is the worse part, he again attempted to catch the same blade with his left forefinger and thumb, it was a total mess in the lab afterwards.

October 27, 2006, 07:03 PM
Very sad. Why is there a need to have a live round in the chamber while hiking?
Yes, very sad. From my perspective, the problem isn't having a live round in the chamber while hiking... I do that frequently. I don't want to spook the deer by working the bolt, I want a quicker response, etc. But if there's a round in the chamber, the rifle is in my hands and I handle it as live.

Never while slung. No matter whether the safety is on or the bolt is partially open.

On using the bolt as the safety, I don't think I'd be comfortable with that. It seems that the bolt is too easily closed. But to each his own. So long as you don't rely on the mechanical safety at the expense of the four rules.

October 27, 2006, 09:47 PM
An effort to catch a falling rifle is a reflex thing and is generally unstoppable.

I agree, though note that this is a learned behavior, I am surprised no one referred to this as an instinctive behavior. Simply, you see your expensive rifle fall, and your learned reaction is to grab it. This of course occurs without thought, but is not a biological drive.

A bad situation all around, prayers for the family, I would not wish that on anyone. If anything, maybe some will learn from this and be a little more careful in the field.

October 27, 2006, 10:36 PM
While tragic, this accident was completely avoidable. I see no need to carry a live round in the chamber in most big game hunting situations.

October 27, 2006, 10:44 PM
Sad. I can only imagine what the son must be feeling like.

October 28, 2006, 05:39 AM
Posting at the end normally means nobody reads it but you do have the insights of the previous posts. This is a good incident to remember and use for safety talks, with hunting pals as you leave the camp or vehicle. My dream as a Dad was for my son to enjoy the outdoors and he prefers organized sports. This father and son were enjoying the outdoors and then this occurred and will haunt the family forever. I have a good friend whose Dad had a heart attack in the woods and he felt very bad he was not able to carry him out and had to leave him alone (alive or deceased).
Without more data I feel we cannot determine cause and preventive actions. I do feel virtually every accident is preventable and firearms and hunting has some risks. I carry my rifle with a round in the chamber? I could not help but grab my falling rifle off my shoulder or even leaning against a tree as I am overly aware of protecting my scope from impact.

Art Eatman
October 28, 2006, 11:12 AM
Carter, a few of us know that instinct is built in. Reflex is learned. :) They ain't synonymous.

Bolt-handle-up isn't the way for ALL rifles. It works well on most.

Safeties vary as to problems with brush or movement from one's clothing. I guess that about the closest to fool-proof is a tang safety or the Garand type. Fore-and-ft movement safeties aren't bad, though. For iron sights, the Mauser or Springfield "foldover" is fine.

Sure, the four conditions apply, but the mechanical aspects are situational. If you need to quickly "up and take a snap shot", you flat-out don't have time for a bunch of manipulation.

If you're just easing along in the brush, having the bolt handle up takes little time to close and "up and shoot". If you think Bambi is right behind a clump of brush, it's appropriate to have everything ready to go and appropriate to have the rifle raised or nearly so. If a guy steps out, he doesn't have antlers, so you don't shoot. Real simple.

You train reflexes into yourself. If you're ready to shoot, but then don't, you first raise the muzzle (or lower it, depending on what's safest at that location) while either putting on the safety or opening the bolt handle. That's just real simple and easy. Make it a habit.

Overall, though, you have to work out some system that suits YOU and protects others. Once you've done that forethought, stay with it. Don't get sloppy.

If the dadgum thing can't go Bang!, grabbing at it if it starts to fall CAN'T hurt anything. Forethought. About as difficult as taking the keys from the ignition when you exit your car...


Smoke Rizen
November 1, 2006, 05:14 PM
I regularly carry in the field with a round chambered. In a mod. 94 lever I keep the hammer on half cock( I don't own any of the newer ones with a safety),in a mod. 99 Sav. I use the tang safety. My most often big game gun is a mod. 70 Win. that I carry W/ one in the tube,and I drop the firing pin. All that's needed to charge the pin is to raise, and then lower the bolt when ready to fire. I've heard lots of different opinions,just be safe. I've also made a practice of pointing the rifle in a safe direction and pulling the trigger before walking off. I've never had one go off, but I'm sure it would scare the bejesus out of me and anyone with me if it did.I hunt with all vintage shotguns with exposed hammers. I carry these cocked with the breach open. I do have a couple scars from snapping them closed with a bit of skin in the way, but no other injuries. It all comes down to safety first,last,and all the time.
May we all be as safe as we aspire to,and avoid any tragedy.

Double Naught Spy
November 1, 2006, 07:15 PM
What a classic and horrific example of a cascade catastrophe. Had any one of the steps been curtailed, then the shooting would not have occurred. Removing any one of the problems could have negated the fatal result and for the fatal result to occur, they all had to happen in the proper order.

Had the gun been properly maintained (including the carry strap), there the carry strap would not have broken under walking conditions.

If the carry strap would not have broken, the gun would not have fallen.

If the gun had not fallen, the son would not have tried to catch it.

If he didn't try to catch it, he would not have managed to depress the trigger.

If he had not carried it ready to fire (loaded, bolt closed, safety off), it could not have fired.

Had the gun not fallen in the direction and orientation that it did, the discharged round would not have hit the father.

Alas, for some reason the carry strap was not sufficient such that it broke while walking. The gun started to fall. The son tried to catch it and depressed the trigger. As the gun was ready to fire, it did fire when the trigger was depressed. Because of the orientation of the muzzle during the fall and when the trigger was depressed, the father was shot and killed.

November 2, 2006, 03:12 PM
OLD TIME HUNTER - "Why is there a need to have a live round in the chamber while hiking?"

Because you can never tell when a Bigfoot is liable to ambush you and try and eat you!

You gotta be ready for anything when out in the boonies! :rolleyes:


November 5, 2006, 02:43 AM
If the carry strap would not have broken, the gun would not have fallen.

The article said the sling broke but it may have been one of those old style push sling swivels where just a bump in the right direction knocks them open. I've seen it 3x and 2 hunters caught their rifle before it hit the ground. The third missed and put a nice ding in his new Leupold scope.

After that I searched for a better mousetrap and found the screw in type sling swivels where you have to thumbscrew them off. Micheals makes them I think it is or Quake Industries. Won't hunt without them now. At least tape the old style one so they don't get bumped loose and you drop a rifle down hard.

While in the USAF another teammate had a sling break on a GAU-5 (USAF version of CAR-15) while rappelling and it went off right between the two of us. Bout soiled myself. No one got hit thank god.

November 6, 2006, 05:44 PM
Cascade, yes. But still avoidable. From my point of view, if you're carrying your rifle slung over your shoulder, you're not hunting and, thusly, should not have a round in the chamber. Sounds like in this instance the safety also failed ... or it wasn't activated. Sad. I used to tell the kids in my hunter safety classes that when you are not actively engaged in hunting, nothing in the chamber and action open. I'll confess to hiking in and out with my action closed, but if the rifle/shotgun is slung, its chamber is empty.

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