OFF-ROADING DEATH: Exhaust Fumes Likely Contributed

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A 21-year-old man died following an accident in a wooded area near the Des Moines River by the Great Ape Trust.

Police say Matthew Blackford was off-roading with some friends in a Jeep Cherokee when he got stuck in muddy pool of water.

“Probably two to three feet deep so not super deep. Not so deep that you couldn't stand up in, but enough to cover the tail pipe of the car,” says Des Moines Police Sgt. Jason Halifax.

With water blocking the tail pipe, police say exhaust likely filled the Jeep as he tried to get out of the water.

“Three of the four got out of the vehicle. The driver, the deceased, stayed in the vehicle and was trying to free it. Kind of a rocking back and forth motion that you would typically do when a car is stuck,” says Halifax.

Possibly dazed and disoriented from carbon monoxide, as he went to get out, he fell into the water. Police say Blackford was under water for several minutes.

His friends called 911 and started CPR, but he couldn`t be saved.

“We tried. I lost my best friend in my arms,” says Anthony Barcelo.

Barcelo says he and Blackford were like brothers. Their group of friends is more like a big family. Blackford was a father to a little girl who just turned one.

“He was a great father,” says Barcelo.

Friends say Blackford loved his family and all things cars. Tears flowed freely as they remembered a friend they lost too soon.

“He would want everyone here to be strong. I know it's soon, but we tried the best we could Matt. We love you,” says Barcelo.

An autopsy will determine how Blackford died, whether he drowned or died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The answer will provide little comfort to his loved ones. Tonight, they are holding a candlelight vigil for him at Gray’s Lake.


  • RoccoB

    OK….his friends were right there when it happened?
    So how did he mange to stay under water for “several minutes”?
    They just left him there before getting him out?

    • sad, sad, sad!

      ‘several minutes’ is a pretty relative term.
      They would have, most likely, moved up the bank away from the vehicle while he remained in it rocking it back and forth. That way he did not have to worry about where they were and they were not in danger of getting hit, also probably didn’t want to get sprayed with mud.
      When he fell, they would have assumed he was going to get back up.
      Then they would have moved to where he was. ‘several minutes’ was probably really only 90 – 120 seconds, but, felt like a lot more to them.
      I don’t think they ‘just left him there’.

    • Calling thier bluff

      I agree. I have been offroading for 10+ years. You have to be either an extreme darwinist to stay in a running vehicle so long with windows up to not notice something is wrong, Plus if the friends where there theyd had rushe din as soon as he fell. I am going to go out on a limb but I think the guy with very fake tears next to the “old hatch” held him under.

      • Calling thier bluff

        Either way, it is a very sad situation for his family and friends, and most of all his child.

  • PlsExplain

    Fake tears. Why does it feel fake.
    And RoccoB, that’s a good point.

    This feels like foul play.

    • ...

      Fake tears & foul play? TonyB has been one of Matts closest friends since childhood. Our group of friends is a big family and we’re all torn to pieces over this. The mother of his child and his best friends had to witness his death. There’s no “foul play” involved. Our hearts are broken.

  • dj

    Foul play? Try accident. Fake tears? How about Matt’s bestfriend trying to hold himself together to speak about his friend that died in his arms. You ignorant, inconsiderate …..

  • Shelly Avery

    & no one was in the vehicle with him when he did it . we were all out of the vehicle before he even got his jeep stuck .he was in it by himself .

  • nathan Crawford

    First off I’ll start with posting with my real name unlike some of you cowards how can you post such pathetic crap this death was an accident how can any of you sit here and say otherwise or call people stupid I would dare anyone to say otherwise to my face or any other good friend or family member the story has never been right so how can you people sit here and talk upon something that u were not there may be when the day that any of you have loose a family member and people talk down upon there death it’s clear he was loved by many and made an impact on everyone’s life he talked too I may just assume you are a very lonely soul and with you could be loved by many feel free to look me up on Facebook and send me a message I’d love to talk to you ;)

  • Shelly Avery

    You guys can all go to he** . I am Matt blackfords girlfriend & the mother of his child. We didn’t let him just lay in the water for several minutes . the news is wrong about that part. Cause it deff wasn’t several minutes right when we noticed that something wasn’t right me & nick jumped into the mud & pulled him out & Anthony helped us. We were performing CPR & everything. Do you really think that I would want the father of my child dead . no Im lost with out him . he was my other half my first love my only love. He meant the world to me . I’m a total wreck with out him . so as far as I’m concerned you can kiss my a** & stop running your mouth when you don’t know anything. your ignorant.

  • nathan Crawford

    The news of every station has also twisted the story back and forth do you also normally just assume everything the news is 100 percent accurate just like they said it was a river and it wasn’t and like they said the doors where off of it when they where on it explain to me why it took 3 ambulance almost 30 minutes to get there when there was a station about 2 miles away several minutes try less than a minute and since he was just playing in the Mudd and being a goof ball it was hard to tell something was wrong everyone did everything they could to save him do you self a favor and just shut the f**k up before karma comes and plays with you a little

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