Monday, April 13, 2009

Doug Smith's Bike Accident

From Tim McCoy

To my cycling friends, friends and family,

Today started out like most Saturdays as the spring finally begins to dawn in Alaska, uh Iowa. We left Rasmussen's Bike Shop at 7am headed toward Winterset. I have cycled on this road twenty to thirty times. There was a group of eight of us who turned around in Winterset. It was a glorious day and an awesome ride. We were making our way back to Des Moines when from behind us a horn started to blow. It got louder and louder and then you could feel something large very close to the group, way to close for anyone's safety. Then, in a split second tragedy struck our group. I was at the front of the group and close to the white line on the right. Our friend Doug Smith was right next to me on my left. We were riding at about twenty miles per hour. The next thing I knew is I felt pressure against the left side of my body and bike. In my mind I said I am going to crash. The next moment I heard screaming as the truck raced past us. The force pushed me to the side of the road but I was still standing and ok. I looked back and there was our friend Doug in the middle of the road. The girls continued to scream now with anger at the truck that literally ran over our friend and kept going. The emotions at moments like this are legion. I started to cry. I started to curse, filled with anger but oddly enough not at the man who did this but at the fact Doug was in the road possibly dying and I was helpless to do a damn thing about it. I prayed dear God please do not let Doug die. I felt grateful, riding out of Winterset I was in Doug's position in the pace line. This could just as easily have been me. I was stunned. i could not believe this was actually happening.

What happened over the next few hours was amazing. Neighbors came out of their homes to assist Doug. Mark, one of our riders whom I do not know very well got on his stomach in the middle of the road and held Doug's hand and felt his pulse. At first he was unconscious, then he awoke not knowing what had just happened to him. I do not know if I could have done what Mark did. It was such a simple act and yet so profoundly powerful at the moment. Doug's beautiful carbon fibre bike lay in three pieces. I stared at it for a few seconds or minutes. I turned and walked up the road away from Doug's body. I then noticed two trucks barreling toward us. Of course they would, they had no idea. I waved my arms to stop them and told them what had happened. One young man described a truck he had passed and asked me if this was the truck. i said yes. The man turned around and caught up to the truck. The man who ran over Doug did come back to the scene probably a half hour later. The delay was good because the anger toward him was huge. I hugged Maria and Keely as they cried. I could not cry at this moment. The Ambulances came. The attendants worked efficiently to stabilize Doug. He was alive! The Ambulance left and there we were, seven people who had our own wounds to deal with.

Trauma needs meaning and significance given to it in order to heal. This made no sense. It had no meaning I could think of. The actions of the farmer, senseless. Surely he did not do this on purpose. Cyclists on the road are incredibly vulnerable. All of us who ride know it. We all have our stories. As I searched for meaning Keely's dad Rick pulled up. John Reed pulled up. Barb Standish pulled up. Spontaneous hugging began taking place everywhere. We were all alive, crying, smiling, hugging, expressing our gratitude for each other and the various roles everyone played to deal with this tragedy. In the midst of our busy lives it came to me. People, relationships, love that is what matters, that is what gave this meaning. A senseless farmer and our friend Doug taught me that this morning.

Everyone went to the hospital immediately except me. I was quiet and on the verge of tears on the way home. Sitting next to Barb reminded me of how short life is and how quickly it can be taken away. I went home and showered. I ate. Then, I sort of woke up and knew I needed to be with my friends. I was scared that one of our friends would not be alive when I arrived. Barb and I walked into the emergency family waiting area to find Doug's family, his wife, his daughter, his dad, his mom, Rick, Keely, Heather, John and the hospital chaplain. "Doug is going to be all right". He has a fractured skull, a broken pelvis, a torn urethra but he will recover. In spite of his injuries I cannot tell you how good it was to know he was alive and would recover! Sally, Doug's wife thanked us all and said if it were not for us Doug might be dead. I hold back the tears as I write this right now. You know, I might be dead if it were not for
all of you. I needed to write this to you all for me. From the bottom of my heart thank you for whatever role you play in my life.

I am so grateful to be alive and to know such wonderful people like you. For those of you who pray please pray for Doug and his family.


Tim McCoy

Related Opinion: Cycling Update

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