On Sunday, I was out for a pleasant ride on my Harley. I rode on familiar two-lane, tree-lined, country roads in my home county. So yeah, it’s me — ol’ geezer on his geezer-glide putt-putting away.
I ride in full gear all the time — boots, long pants, DOT-listed helmet, and a protective, well-ventilated ballistic nylon jacket. Usually — I admit when it’s really hot — I can’t wear a jacket. Roasting fatigues and dehydrates me, thus making it unsafe to ride.
So as I was riding along on this pleasantly warm sunny day, I came to a stop light. Two younger guys on motorcycles that they had modified (one with “ape hanger” bars) pulled up behind me. Revved their engines… obvious to me, they wanted to…
…get around that old fart ahead of them as soon as the light changed.
Ahead, the road turned blindly to the left. There was no shoulder. A car in the oncoming lane was also stopped at the light.
Light changed. I accelerated rather quickly and got to the posted speed limit of 30mph for this curvy section of the road. I was riding in the right track, to give room to the bikers behind me if they wanted to pass.
Road continued to curve blindly to the left. And as soon as the oncoming car had cleared, the ape-hanger rider sped up and flew past me on my left, on the other side of the double-yellow line.
This wasn’t unexpected, but what happened next was horrible.
The rider and I both saw an oncoming car in the lane he crossed into. He tried to dodge back into my lane, but lost control and ran off the road. Bike ejected him and he tumbled down a hill.
We all stopped — me, his riding buddy, and two other cars (the oncoming car and one behind us.)
I jumped off my bike, grabbed my first aid kit, and ran to the injured biker. His friend was freaking out. I told him to call 9-1-1, but he was frozen. So I whipped out my clamshell phone, dialed 9-1-1, and held the phone under my chin while assessing the injured rider.
He was breathing and was moaning in great pain. His helmet had come off… (saw it later… half-helmet “beanie” was not securely fastened.) But he was moving his head and his face/neck wasn’t bleeding, so I wasn’t as worried about a head injury.
Then I looked at his lower body. When I saw dark red arterial blood shooting out from what was left of his left leg, I immediately reacted. Training kicked in. I threw open my first aid kit and got to work. I grabbed a long cloth (used for a sling) and tied it as a constriction bandage around his lower leg to try to stop (or slow) the massive arterial bleeding.
Yeah, he was wearing sneakers… one of them was still on his right foot. His left foot was bare and was dangling by a piece of skin. Bones were showing. Ankle was mashed/crumpled and mostly… just gone.
The biker tried to lift his head, and I just held him down and told him not to move.
I managed to keep myself together and render first aid while giving information to the dispatcher as to our location, nearest cross-street, and condition of the victim. I must have relayed the gravity of his injuries adequately because it produced the highest level of response (ALS medic unit, two engines with six Firefighter/EMTs, and at least six police officers.)
Police arrived first. I continued to give first aid. When I asked an officer if he were ready to take over, he looked ashen and said, “EMS is one minute out… hang on.”
When the EMT/paramedics got there, they took over caring for the injured biker quickly and an officer took me to his cruiser. Another Firefighter/EMT helped me wash up. I didn’t even realize that I had put on medical gloves. I guess that’s why I keep them on top of my kit–pull them on first before giving first aid as taught. (Connected community again — I knew this Firefighter/EMT from working together on community fire safety projects.)
It was only then that it hit me. I began to shake with nerves. Without realizing it, I also began to cry.
The officer who led me to his cruiser began looking after me. He got me some water and talked to me calmly. He was in no hurry to get a statement. He wanted to make sure I was okay. I credit his compassion and caring; he really helped me calm down and regain composure.
Statements from all the witnesses were the same — the biker deliberately crossed the double yellow line while attempting to pass me, without regard to traffic or his own personal safety.
The biker was taken away in the medic unit (ambulance.) After the responding officers took everyone’s statements and took pictures of the scene, they released us. It was only then that I looked for my own motorcycle. Someone (probably a police officer) moved it to the side of the road. The compassionate officer walked up to me and asked if he could take me home. Obviously, I was still quite shaken up.
I did not want to leave my Harley on the side of the road. The officer then said that he would follow me home and to ride as slowly as I wanted and he would protect me. That relieved me immensely. What a great guy and thoughtfully kind above-and-beyond gesture.
I got home safely, waved to the officer, and said thank you. (Later, I wrote a highly appreciative and complimentary note to the Commander of his district.)
Epilogue: the story doesn’t end at the crash. Because I know people in my county’s Fire/Rescue Service, I found out where the biker had been transported and got his name. I called the hospital and confirmed that he had been admitted to a regular room, but they wouldn’t tell me what had happened. (Privacy… I get it.)
Last night, I went with a buddy from the Fire Department to the hospital and found the room of the injured biker. His parents were there. My buddy introduced me as “the guy who gave first aid to your son.” They told me that I saved their son’s life. They said that they heard that he would have “bled out” and died if I had not done what I did to stop/slow the bleeding from his left leg.
Then disturbing news followed. The biker had to have his left leg amputated below the knee. There was nothing they could do to save it.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep last night. I know that I did not do anything wrong and the biker made some really bad decisions. I will NOT criticize poor decision-making and risk-taking behavior of young riders. But there is a lesson from this — humans are not invincible. There are consequences of every decision you make.
Life is short: think before you act.