Two years after near-death accident, Bradie Gray returns to CNFR

Australian bull rider Bradie Gray waits during rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Tuesday night performance of the CNFR at the Casper Events Center. Gray, who was riding for Odessa College, was almost killed after a bull stomped on his chest during the 2017 CNFR. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Australian bull rider Bradie Gray doesn’t remember his first ride in a Wyoming Medical Center ambulance.

“I remember getting on the bull and it stepping on me…that’s all I remember,” Gray told Oil City in 2017.

At the Casper Events Center on Tuesday, afternoon Gray was preparing for another ambulance ride.

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There’s a significant difference this time. The ride is not only planned, it’s carefully rehearsed.

During the CNFR opening ceremony, Gray appeared with some of the first responders who helped save his life during the critical moments after Levi the Boss’ massive hindquarters landed square on his chest during the 2017 CNFR performance.

They entered the arena inside an ambulance.

“It’ll be good to walk out instead of being carried out,” said Gray.

Gray returned to Casper during last year’s CNFR but only for a day. This time he’s here for much of the week, and he’s making the most of it.

“I went to the hospital yesterday and got to see everyone,” said Gray.

“And everyone around town that helped me, I’m trying to visit with them when I can before I leave.”

“Memories do come back, but I get a lot of joy out of this place,” said Gray during a short break between rehearsal for tonight’s ceremony.

“I take the good from the bad, I met a lot of great people here in Casper.”

His recovery in Casper was swift. After barely two weeks in the Wyoming Medical Center ICU he walked to a recovery room under his own power.

Three weeks after that he left the hospital.

His recovery, much less his survival, was very much in question on that Thursday night in 2017.

“When he got up and looked at us I knew he was in trouble,” former Odessa College Rodeo coach CJ Aragon said.

“I knew right then that he was in bad shape.”

Aragon is now coaching for Sul Ross University and Gray has gone pro, but the two still regularly communicate.

Aragon remembers that night at the hospital.

“We’d been there for several hours and then the doctor came in and said he was in really bad shape and we’re doing everything we can to save him…then we sat for a couple of more hours,” said Aragon.

“The staff at the hospital was phenomenal but it’s not something I ever want to go through again.”

The trauma surgeon on call that night was Dr. Brock Anderson, who told Oil City in 2017 that Gray suffered a crush injury similar to something that might happen on a severe drill rig accident.

“The hoof essentially almost entered his chest”, said Dr. Anderson. “He was basically dead for a little while.”

Read the full interview with Dr. Anderson here.

Gray’s protective vest was destroyed in the accident, which everyone agrees was essential in helping him survive.

“I got back on my first bull just seven months after,” said Gray, who’s taking a year off competing to spend time with family. He also underwent a knee replacement recently.

He admits to some nervousness on his first post-injury ride, but he’s driven to the sport.

“It’s what I love to do.”

The 2019 CNFR runs through Saturday night at the Casper Events Center. Performances start at 7 p.m.