'I just kept praying the whole time' - Local newlyweds talk about fall into volcano on honeymoon

(Debra Catron and Shutterstock / Jason Patrick Ross)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Hoosiers Clay and Acaimie Chastain are back in Indiana after a harrowing honeymoon.

Clay and Acaimie Chastain. (WTHR Staff)

And for the first time, they’re both sharing details about how they survived an accident at a dormant volcano that could have turned deadly for the young groom.

Just looking at him, you wouldn't know Clay Chastain almost didn't make it home from his honeymoon.

"It's been a pretty...quick recovery I guess you would say for something like this,” said Acaimie, his wife.

An accident tested their new vows and easily could have ended Clay’s life. He calls his survival a miracle.

“The two things that kind of got me back to safety were, well obviously God helping us along the way, as well as my wife,” he said.

Clay and Acaimie Chastain at Mount Liamuiga. (Debra Catron)

It was in St. Kitts where they encountered danger atop a dormant volcano.

Mount Liamuiga is a tough hike, described as a trek for "experienced adventurers".

When these Purdue grads reached the top, Clay discovered a rope trail down into the volcano, used by other hikers.

He enjoys exploring, adventure and risk-taking, so Acaimie waited at the top, while he started his descent.

"I just kind of walked down holding onto the rope, like walking backwards,” he recalled. "Next thing I knew, I was sitting down on the ground and ... vomiting from the concussion that I had."

Clay and Acaimie Chastain at Mount Liamuiga. (Debra Catron)

The rope had broken. Clay tumbled 50 to 70 feet down onto the rocks below.​ Acaimie, at first, didn’t know there had been an accident.

"I did hear what sounded like a really faint call for help,” she said. The newlyweds were all alone on that mountain. No cell service either.​

Acaimie, with her husband bleeding and badly injured, had to go into the crater and save him.

"So we started climbing out and I climbed beneath him so I could kind of push, push him up,” she said.

That struggle, which took a half hour, wasn’t the worst of it. They had a two mile trek down the side of the volcano to get help.

"I lost track of time. I just kept thinking it was taking forever. But, like, it didn't matter how long it took because I knew eventually, if we followed the right trail, we'd get back,” she said.

“I could tell he was getting like paler. He was getting weaker.”

As Clay's condition got worse, the couple says prayer and faith helped them over those three hours.

"I could tell he was getting like paler. He was getting weaker. His skin was getting clammy and cold,” Acaimie said. "So I just kept praying the whole time and telling Clay, you know, encouraging Clay and telling him he was doing a really good job and I was really proud because I was."

20 meters from the base of the volcano, they finally got a cell signal and called 911.

"And that was just like so relieving. Finally my screams for help that I'd been screaming like the entire way down the side of the volcano were answered by somebody and I was like 'oh my goodness, we finally have help',” Acaimie said.

The couple also had help from Hoosiers.

Clay Chastain at the hospital in St. Kitts. (Debra Catron)

At the hospital in St. Kitts, Clay was stuck, with a concussion, a fractured vertebrae and an air pocket in his skull.

He needed a medical transport plane to get back home, which was not covered by insurance.

Two days after our story with family in Indiana, he got it and flew to Florida.

"Like it was incredible that that many people reached out that fast,” Clay said.

"God's provided us with a lot of loving family and friends and we can't thank them enough for everything they've done to help us."

Clay spent time in a Florida hospital before getting cleared to return to Indiana.

He does have lingering injuries: his balance is off, he can't drive yet or return to his new job, he also has permanent hearing loss in his right ear.

Doctors in St. Kitts also didn't notice a cerebral spinal fluid leak that had to be fixed in the States.

Still, he’s thankful.

And these newlyweds know what they survived together in those first few days of marriage is more than what most couples endure in a lifetime.

"It’s showing us kind of early on that if we can fight through this,” he said, “immediately once after we're married, that we can get through anything that's thrown at us."