Our club was on a planned ride, the day was beautiful and we had a very large turn-out. As is our custom when we have a large group to manage, the other Road Captains and I split the large group into two separate groups with about a quarter mile gap in between, so cars that want to pass us can get around without a whole lot of trouble. This day we were on a narrow 2 lane country road and traffic was very heavy. I was riding in the “sweep” or last position in the first group.
As we were riding I noticed a pick-up truck pulling a very large camper coming toward me in the opposite lane. The trailer was too heavy for the truck and it was swaying back and forth. When the truck went by me I had to move over to the edge of my lane to avoid being hit. As we continued up the highway I noticed in my rear-view mirrors that one of our members from the second group was coming up behind me at a high rate of speed with his lights flashing. I slowed down, he told me that the second group was in an accident and several people were down. I immediately did a U-Turn and instructed the other rider to catch up to the leader of the group I was in and ask him to come back too. We sent the other riders on to the next scheduled rest stop to wait for additional information.
As I returned to the scene of the accident, the first thing I noticed was that a member who had been riding on the back of her husband’s Ultra was laying in the very middle of the road with a compound fracture of her left femur bone. Looking beyond her, I could see another rider laying at the side of the road, who turned out to be her husband, and then I noticed the same pick-up truck and trailer mentioned earlier. The truck was at a 45-degree angle across the highway and his front end was buried in the back end of another car. That car was imbedded in the rear of an older large Pontiac. I also noted that the Pontiac had a completely smashed windshield.
I parked my bike, grabbed my trauma kit, and ran to the woman on the ground with the compound fracture. She was conscious and there was very little bleeding around the wound. She was asking for her husband. I asked some of our club members who were just standing around to go up the line of cars and ask people for towels, blankets, etc. because this road is known as a common shortcut to Myrtle Beach, SC. The scene was very grizzly, and I noticed that a lot of our riders were kind of in shock or starting to panic. I tried to give each one an assignment and I stayed as calm as I possibly could (a tactic I learned in ASM). As the towels and blankets started to arrive, a woman came to me and identified herself as a Registered Nurse. I asked her to supervise getting the victim with the compound fracture up off the road surface, which was very hot, and get her stabilized on the blankets and towels. I asked if she had called 911 and she indicated she had.
I next turned my attention to the first victim’s husband who was still laying deadly still on the side of the road where I had first seen him. I bent down to check him for any breathing or bleeding issues. He had no cuts, but his breathing was very shallow and weak. While I was doing that, a young man walked up to me and asked me if the man lying on the side of the road was dead. I told him I didn’t know yet and then he said, “what are you going to do about them people down there?”. I asked what people, and he pointed to my left. It was then that I realized we were on a culvert that had a small stream running through it under the highway. As I looked down at the water I could see six (6) more of our riders in the water and on the side of the bank. One woman was face down in the water with her husband’s motorcycle on top of her.
I asked another Road Captain to get down there and get anyone he could to help him move the motorcycle off that woman, and check her to see if she was still breathing before moving her in any major way. Several men lifted the motorcycle off the woman and it turns out she had her head turned, and though unconscious, she was still breathing. The other victims who were down in the water were being helped up the side of the bank to safety in short order. I refocused all my attention on the man lying on the side of the road. He was still taking shallow breaths and was unconscious, but he was alive. I did my best to get him stabilized and began talking to him, telling him he was going to be OK and that we were not going to leave him. I then asked another rider to continue to talk to him in a soft and comfortable way.
I ran back over to check on his wife, and though she was in tremendous pain, she was holding her own. About that time I heard sirens in the distance and I knew we were going to get some help. The first responder on the scene was a state highway patrol officer. He asked me what happened and I told him as briefly as I could. I also told him that I had a conversation with the driver of the pick-up truck and he did not appear to be either drunk or under the influence of any medications when I spoke to him. He was clear eyed and clear headed and very upset that he had caused all this carnage.
As it turned out, the man in the pick-up had lost control of his truck and trailer and hit the car in front of him. That car then hit the Pontiac which was traveling in front of him, knocking it into oncoming traffic, and the couple I have referred to were then struck by the Pontiac. The husband had been knocked all the way over the top of the car and his wife was down at approximately the spot of impact. I’m happy to report that all victims survived with time, hospitalization and rehab. The first female victim now walks with a very pronounced limp, and her husband was unable to return to his job. In spite of this, they have purchased another motorcycle and are continuing to play an active role in the life of our club.
I continued on as Head Road Captain until I was appointed State Commander of the Coalition of Independent Riders. Those duties have taken over so much of my time that I relinquished the role to the man who had been my assistant for the last couple of years, and he is doing an excellent job. I still take the ASM course every year and last year I also added in CPR/AED class which I found extremely useful and informative. That enabled me to become a Certified member of Road Guardians.
I cannot recommend these classes with enough enthusiasm to all of those who ride motorcycles, especially those who find themselves in a lead position from time to time. Planning and preparation for all kinds of different scenarios can save a life – and it might be yours.