With its eye-catching greenery and beautiful views, the summit of Mount Liamuiga is understandably a big draw for visitors to St. Kitts. And when Clay Chastain and his wife Acaimie spent their honeymoon on the West Indian island, they, too, decided to venture to the top of the mountain. Then, as the newlyweds hiked onwards, Clay put his faith in a rope trail to guide him towards the volcano’s crater. But this turned out to be a big mistake. Clay plummeted perilously downwards.
Before Clay and Acaimie embarked on their fateful trip, though, both had attended Purdue University. Clay had worked towards a degree in animal science at the Indiana college, while Acaimie had been a management and marketing student. In fact, it seems that creatures both big and small were a passion for the young man, as at one point he had also worked as an animal caretaker at Indianapolis Zoo.
And Clay and Acaimie took their relationship to the next level in 2018 when the couple decided to get married. Acaimie shared the good news on her Facebook page in July of that year with the message, “Looks like I got me a gem… and the ring’s pretty nice too.” The quip was accompanied by a photo of the newly engaged woman on Clay’s back, showing off the ring on her left hand.
The couple had only just tied the knot, too, prior to Clay’s accident. Clay and Acaimie had wed on July 13, 2019 in Indianapolis, after which they had jetted off to St. Kitts on honeymoon. And the pair of college grads would travel over 2,000 miles to enjoy their first vacation together as man and wife.
Clay and Acaimie’s wedding had been a fairytale affair, judging by the photos snapped of the two on their big day. In one of the images, the bride and groom can be seen kissing in front of a bright white pergola and surrounded by decorative tree stumps. Another picture, meanwhile, shows the pair smiling happily in each other’s arms.
But although St. Kitts is known for its stunning beaches, the newlyweds weren’t going to spend all of their time merely soaking up the sun on the sands. A few days into the honeymoon, then, Clay and Acaimie made the trek up the island’s famed Mount Liamuiga.
The nearly 3,800-foot-high dormant stratovolcano is one of the main attractions on St. Kitts and is known for possessing the tallest peak on the island. Traversing Mount Liamuiga’s slopes is well worth it, too, as those who make the trip to the summit will be treated to jaw-dropping vistas of the Caribbean Sea and the surrounding islands in the ocean.
And before setting off on their journey up Mount Liamuiga, Clay and Acaimie had tried to take precautions. In July 2019 Clay told CBS Miami, “We decided we were just going to… find a visitors center and find a tour guide.” After getting to the area, though, the couple found that there was no such facility. Clay added, “It was kind of just the beginning of the trail, so we were just like, ‘Okay, we don’t need [a guide]. We’ll just go ahead and do it.”
So, Clay and Aicaimie made the two-mile trek up Mount Liamuiga on their own – stopping at times to take pictures on the way. And the Indiana couple’s snaps from that time are envy-inducing, captured as they are amid the tranquil scenery that surrounds the volcano.
But although Acaimie had managed to make the jaunt to the summit, she wasn’t very comfortable with heights. Realizing her discomfort, the newlywed therefore decided to stay put while her husband journeyed into the volcano’s crater. Then something told Acaimie that Clay’s descent had gone badly wrong.
Acaimie later told CBS Miami, “I started getting like this feeling, this really bad feeling, that something really bad had happened. I started to call down the mountain, and I asked ‘Hey, Clay, are you okay? Is everything alright?’” Rather ominously, the young woman didn’t initially receive any reply to her questions.
So, Acaimie concentrated, listening intently for any noise that could alert her to her husband’s plight. But when she did finally catch something, it understandably put her on edge. “I heard what sounded like Clay saying ‘Help!’ just really faintly, and I just started freaking out,” she explained to CBS Miami.
Even despite her terror of heights, then, Acaimie knew that she had to head towards the source of the sound and rescue her husband. And on her way, she encountered Clay’s cellphone and bandana, both of which had been seemingly discarded. Then, when Acaimie eventually reached Clay, she was in for a shock.
From the look of the scene, it was clear that Clay had fallen and badly hurt himself. It wasn’t immediately apparent what his injuries were or how severe they were, but it was obvious that he was in trouble – and that the situation was very serious. Clay had fallen from a great height, after all; he had plummeted at least 50 feet down from the edge.
The Indiana man would go on to explain the situation in which he had found himself, saying in a July 2019 interview with CBS This Morning, “I was holding onto the ropes, kind of walking down backwards like you would a ladder. Next thing I notice, I’m sitting on the ground with my head between my knees and vomiting up blood, and there’s blood all down my shirt.”
Neither was Clay entirely sure how he had ended up plunging so far – possibly up to 70 feet down, according to estimates of the drop. He added, “I think that a rope snapped, and I fell. But we’re not entirely certain because I don’t remember falling at all.”
And, unfortunately, there was no one else in the vicinity to lend a hand. Calling someone on the ground wasn’t an option, either, as the couple’s location so far up meant that they had no cell phone reception. Ultimately, then, Acaimie would have to step in and help her husband of less than a week.
So, Acaimie took Clay towards safety – all the while not knowing if he was going to be okay. And while Clay frequently questioned her as to when they would be off the volcano, she was unable to tell him when they could finally stop and rest. The couple paused on occasion, though, so that Clay could once again vomit blood.
Of this harrowing experience, Acaimie told CBS Miami, “We kept going down, and I was just coaching Clay and telling him about how proud I was… I was just like so happy that he was conscious – at least able to move, even if he didn’t know what was going on – and that he was able to lean upon me and still make his descent down.”
Then, following nearly three hours of walking, the couple made it to paramedics, who duly took Clay to hospital. And amazingly, while Clay was at the facility, it was discovered that he had received relatively minor injuries – when taking the height of his fall and the impact into consideration, anyway.
That said, Clay certainly hadn’t emerged entirely unscathed from his ordeal. He had a skull fracture, for one. Still, while the medics initially feared that one of the young man’s vertebrae had also been broken, fortunately this wasn’t the case; instead, the scan he had received had been faulty.
And even though Clay wasn’t in a life-threatening condition following his fall, the air that had entered his brain cavity as a result of the fracture also had its own impact. Specifically, owing to the air pressure passengers typically experience while flying, the Indiana resident wouldn’t be able to take a commercial flight home.
It wasn’t just Clay who had been injured, either. While transporting her husband down from Mount Liamuiga, Acaimie had bruised her legs badly. In a July 2019 interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, Clay added of his wife, “One of her big toenails is about to fall off from pushing against the front of her shoe so much on the way down [the mountain].”
In order to get back home, then, the couple would need to privately take a medical flight to the U.S. – even though this would come at great cost. But help was at hand in the form of a GoFundMe campaign launched by Acaimie’s sister Sabrina. The total amount requested was $35,000, with these funds not only enabling Clay and Acaimie to pay their medical bills but also to get the injured man to hospital in Florida.
People donated in their dozens, too, as well as posting messages of support for the couple. Sue and Craig Svensson wrote on the GoFundMe page, for instance, “Acaimie – you’ve been a sweet friend and big help to us since you were 14. We were thrilled to witness your sacred marriage vows and to celebrate with you just one week ago today.”
Sue and Craig added to Acaimie, “You and Clay are in our constant thoughts and prayers, and we’re spreading the word about your needs.” Meanwhile, Clay’s buddy Kylee Randle said of the Indiana man, “You are one of my favorite friends from growing up. I’ve always admired your zest for life and charisma for others.
Kylee continued to Clay, “Sounds like your adventurous side had a rough day… but don’t let that stop you two from more adventures and amazing memories in the future! Thank God you are okay, and your amazing new wife is so badass.”
And as the donations flooded in, Clay’s brother Hunter Chastain took to the GoFundMe page to encourage others to offer yet further help. There, Hunter wrote, “The progress we’ve made on this is amazing! We’re a third of the way there. Keep sharing, donating, and telling your friends and help get Clay home!”
Ultimately, the GoFundMe campaign would raise over $35,000, meaning Clay and Acaimie would finally be able to return to the U.S. The newlyweds wouldn’t be going straight back home to Indiana, though, as Clay needed to complete his recovery first. Instead, the two were transferred to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
And the facility’s Dr. Maxine Hamilton would later talk of Clay’s condition to CBS This Morning, saying, “[Clay] had a fracture at the base of the skull in the temporal bone. This is a very serious injury.” Yet the young man had had a stroke of luck, it seems. Hamilton added, “Fortunately [in Clay’s case], the fracture was where the bones did not actually become displaced; they stayed together.”
Sabrina would further update GoFundMe pledgers on Clay’s state, writing, “It has been discovered that [Clay] is leaking spinal fluid from his brain into his nose and throat. He is bedridden, and it looks like he will require a drain placed in his skull for a few days to enable the drainage and continued antibiotics to help prevent infection.”
Despite such a setback, however, Clay and Acaimie were grateful for the well-wishes and assistance that they had had from their friends and family in the U.S. “We’re just so thankful to everyone back home. All the support that we have received has been so overwhelming,” Acaimie said in her interview with CBS Miami.
“We’re just overwhelmed,” Acaimie added while talking to The Indianapolis Star in July 2019. “[An accident like ours is] never something that you think would ever happen to you. You read stories about crazy situations that happen to people and say, ‘That would never happen to me.’ Now that it has. It’s crazy to be the recipient of such love and support.”
The newlywed could see the bright side of her and Clay’s experience to boot. She added, “[It was] probably the worst honeymoon ever, but through it we have learned a lot about each other. [We’ve also learned] a lot about who we ultimately need to have our trust in – and that’s our God.”
And in late July 2019, after the couple were back in the States, Acaimie took to Facebook to give further thanks. “We have been completely overwhelmed by the prayers, generosity and support [that] we have received during this time,” she wrote.
Acaimie continued, “We have been completely overwhelmed by the prayers, generosity, and support we have received during this time. Clay and I have cried together multiple times because it has been so incredible to be the recipient of such love from family, friends and complete strangers. We look forward to giving back generously and loving and supporting others in the future.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with Indianapolis-based ABC affiliate WRTV, Clay revealed that he had learned a few lessons from his ordeal. And when talking to the station, he offered a couple of tips to anyone else who was considering following in his footsteps by scaling Mount Liamuiga.
Clay explained, “One [piece of advice I would give] would be to hire a tour guide because I am sure they know which parts [of Mount Liamuiga] are safe and which parts are not. And [they know] how long those ropes have been up there and how safe they are to use.”
The newly married man went on, “If you are going to [climb Mount Liamuiga], don’t do it alone. I don’t know if I would have made it out completely in one piece without my wife to carry [me] out. And if you are going to do anything like this, make sure you are properly secured.”
Thankfully, then, the future still looks bright for Clay and Acamie. And for the male half of the couple, at least, his days look set to be filled with more work on behalf of animals. Just before he married, you see, he earned a master’s degree in swine nutrition from Purdue. And when Clay finally recovers, it’s likely that he’ll take up a position at United Animal Health in Frankfort, Indiana.