UK woman attacked by bison at Custer State Park shares her story

Amelia Dean at Monument Health with the dog she was walking in Custer State Park at the time of...
Amelia Dean at Monument Health with the dog she was walking in Custer State Park at the time of a bison attack.(Aleah Burggraff)
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 6:16 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Earlier this year, Amelia Dean from the UK was traveling the United States when she came face to face with death in the form of a bison at Custer State Park.

“It’s a surreal enough experience let alone the fact that we weren’t doing anything that really warranted it. We were just having a walk in the park,” said Amelia from her hospital bed at Monument Health in Rapid City, South Dakota where she’s been staying since the attack 7 weeks ago.

Amelia was originally traveling around Europe when a new friend asked if she wanted to go on a road trip in the United States.

On day 2 of the trip, they decided to visit Custer State Park and take her friend’s dog on a walk.

“They came over a hill and saw down in the dip, quite a way ahead of them, they saw a big, male bison,” explained her father, Matthew Dean.

Amelia and her friend considered turning back, but they were out of supplies in the final stretch of a 2-hour hike.

“I was really dehydrated, it was really sunny, and we’d both given our water to the dog like an hour ago,” explained Amelia.

So instead of turning back, they kept distance between them and the buffalo and walked around it.

“And suddenly the bison looked up. They were over 100 yards away and the bison just ran down the hill at her. It came right up and stopped in front of her and then apparently, they had a bit of eye contact for a few seconds,” explained Jacqueline Dean, mother of Amelia.

“I could have put my hand out on his forehead without properly stretching it out completely fine,” recalled Amelia.

That’s when the bison attacked.

“It went through her thigh with the horn. Came out the other end. Tossed her in the air,” said Jacqueline.

“We’re told about 10 to 15 feet,” added Matthew.

“I remember feeling the pressure on my hip. My hip being pushed back and I remember the sensation of flying in the air and going head over heels,” Amelia explained.

After the strike, the buffalo didn’t leave, at least not right away.

“The bison stuck around and his hooves were right over my head. I remember them being like right by my head,” Amelia remembered.

“And it must have been absolutely terrifying for her,” said Jacqueline.

Her friend finally led the buffalo away and called 911.

The damage from the bison’s horn was extensive and severed her femoral artery.

“We’re told that people usually, you know, bleed out between 2 and 8 minutes and die, but she didn’t,” said Jacqueline.

“So, it’s a miracle I even lived until the ambulance got there, you know, let alone when I got here and kept my life and my leg,” said Amelia, but once at the hospital she learned about the extent of her injuries.

Two of her nerves were damaged in the attack leaving her paralyzed from the knee down in her leg.

“I have basically no movement in my foot. I can’t walk without a walker or crutches. I can’t walk very far, about 20 meters, and I’m done for a long time,” explained Amelia.

A tough realization for an active 19-year-old woman with passion to dance.

However, hope was on the horizon for the family.

They worked with the hospital to transfer Amelia to the Mayo Clinic to undergo treatment with Dr. Robert Spinner, a surgeon that specializes in peripheral nerve damage.

“You want someone, when it’s your child, who’s going to do the best job. They accepted us, a transfer was put into place. We were just waiting for a bed,” explained Jacqueline on their fight to transfer Amelia.

Finally, their prayers were answered.

“Amelia said ‘I’ve never seen daddy cry like that’ because he was so relieved,” said Jacqueline, but two hours later another blow hit the family.

“The case worker came in and said ‘I’ve got some really bad news for you. They’ve withdrawn the offer and they’re not going to send you to the mayo. They said it’s not their responsibility,’” said Jacqueline. “It was so, it was so sad for her because she was absolutely devastated.”

Despite continued set backs and issues with insurance, the Deans haven’t lost hope.

They continue to fight for their daughter, “and I really believe that God’s got a purpose for her and I know that sounds cheesy, but I believe God’s got a plan and purpose for her because it wasn’t her time to die.”

Throughout every struggle, the Dean family has constant praise for the doctors and community that supported them throughout their road to recovery.

“We cannot praise the professional care that she’s had there, can we?”

“And the kindness and the compassion.”

“The care and compassion of the people of South Dakota.”

“Yes. Oh my gosh. The city should be so proud of itself,” said Amelia’s mom.

Amelia agrees, thankful for the care she’s received in the U.S. despite another setback.

“I think I hope this doesn’t discourage people from traveling. Travel and explore and have fun. This is a freak accident this isn’t going to happen every time somebody walks in a park. Hopefully,” said Amelia.

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