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In mid June of 2017, my best friend Alex and I were riding our dual sport motorcycles on remote mountain trails in Northern Colorado. The day had been going well, and we decided to hit one more trail before heading home. This was a very remote single track trail that was un-maintained; there were lots of fallen trees across it from high winds the previous winter. We decided to ride it anyway. In hindsight, this was not a great idea since we were already fatigued from the day's ride.
About 3 miles in, Alex got his bike snagged on a large log while trying to hop over it. He flew over the handlebars and landed about six feet away, directly on his head. I could instantly tell he was badly injured. Despite wearing a helmet and full riding gear, he was in so much pain that he could not move or even talk for several minutes. After a while, he began to signal that his neck and upper back were hurting the most. Alex had sensation in his arms and legs, and he could move his limbs, but he was in excruciating pain. He made one attempt to get up after about 45 minutes, but was incapacitated. He was not riding out, he was not walking out, and I could not carry him out. I suspected that he had suffered a spinal injury and was unsafe to move without stabilization. To make matters worse, it was late and soon to be getting dark, and we had no cellphone reception. We were at least 16 miles from the nearest real road: nine-plus miles of forest service road, 4 miles of jeep trails, and another 3 miles of nearly impassable single track stood between us and the rest of civilization.
I decided to ride back out and find help. I activated the ACR PLB that my father had given me a few months earlier, and left it with Alex. If I also got injured on the way out (which seemed very possible), there would be no way to find either of us. I didn't know it at the time, but the rescue process started right then. The air force received the signal and called my wife to confirm that it was valid. While I was riding back down the trail, they were notifying the local authorities. Once I made it back to the jeep trail, I found some campers. I told them what had happened, and they tried to get help as well. They were, however, unsuccessful in even getting a 4-wheeler back down the trail to Alex. I rode back in and waited with him. By this time, EMS and fire rescue had been mobilized by the ACR PLB signal. When they arrived, near sunset, at the end of the Jeep trail, the campers helped direct them on the three mile hike up the single-track.
They evaluated Alex and determined him unsafe to stretcher out due to his spinal injury. Instead, a medevac helicopter was called to the PLB location. In an impressive display of skill, the pilot landed in the dark, in a nearby clearing just barely large enough for the helicopter. About five hours after his accident, Alex arrived via medevac at Medical Center of the Rockies. The doctors found unstable vertebral fractures (C7 and T1) in his neck and back. He required surgery, and will be in a huge brace for months to come, but is going to make a full recovery without any significant neurological deficits.
Thank you ACR!
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