As I said in my last post, Boxing Day (26 December 2013) began with the promise of a beautiful long ride through the centre of the North Island of New Zealand with my “Tailpipes” buddies and 3 other friends, with the destination being the Wanganui Cemetery Circuit motorcycle races. I got up at 4:00 a.m, replete with Christmas food from the celebrations of the day before but minimal alcohol, and arranged to ride with Andre to meet the others at Papakura at 5:00 a.m.
Eventually we were all ready to go; Greg on his Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans, Nick: MV Agusta F4 750, Dexter: Ducati 909 Special, Justin: Ducati Paso 906. Andre: Ducati 916 and me on my faithful BMW K1200s.
The ride south from Auckland was relatively uneventful until we moved to Glen Murray Road and the by-pass to Otorohanga where we met up with Jono on his Yamaha YZF1000 Thunderace. We stopped later in Te Kuiti for breakfast.
The next major stop, apart from the inevitable petrol stops for the smaller tanks and hungry bikes, was to be at Raetihi. The pace had picked up and this leg of the journey was very enjoyable, although due to low cloud on the Central Plateau, the volcanic peaks of Ruapehu, Ngaruahoe and Tongariro were not visible. Dexter and I led the last part of this leg and even though I was loaded up with cameras, gear and clothes, I really enjoyed pressing on through the high country.
We stopped at Raetihi for a well-earned rest and refuel and prepared for one of the best 90 kms of road for motorcycling in the North Island – the famous Paraparas. I had intended to set up my Go Pro camera for this final leg as it is a continuous run of tight bends descending from the high country, down through the Mangawhero River valley, and on to the sea. The scenery is spectacular. It would have made interesting viewing if I had started the video camera. However a hard year, a bout of bronchitis, Christmas dinner and an early start had left me quite tired and I was struggling to concentrate at the back of the bunch. I thought I had the tiredness under control by opening the visor to let fresh air onto my face, and by easing back on the corners, but it obviously got the better of me coming through a sweeper some 27 km south of Raetihi and around 70 km from our destination, I think I fell asleep. I say “I think” because I will never really know but that is what I told Dexter as he came to cut me out of a fence, and it seems logical to me. I certainly didn’t “low side” or slide out. I went straight ahead at who knows what speed. I don’t remember the corner itself. I do remember saying to myself “I’m not going to make it. I hope there are no cars coming the other way” as I crossed the centre line, and I remember being reasonably upright as I hit a fence on the far side of the road. Maybe I pulled on the brakes and stood the bike up – I don’t know.
Obviously I passed out after that. From here on the story is mainly second-hand as told to me by others. Apparently Dexter was alerted to the accident by the driver of a car he was about to pass who signalled wildly to him – he had seen me in his rear-view mirrors going straight ahead. Unfortunately the others in our group had not seen anything and continued on for another 50-60 km then waited for us to catch up – that didn’t happen of course, so Andre, Jono and Justin made their way back until they came to the crash site.
Some passing motorists were first on the scene, including Annie and her two daughters who took care of traffic and assessed the crash site. Dexter had turned his bike around and was busy extracting me from the post and wire fence.
Some off-duty paramedics arrived soon after and addressed my first aid needs until help arrived from the nearest town, Ohakune, some 40 kms away. Police and an ambulance arrived some 40 minutes later. A rescue helicopter had been called from Palmerston North and I was air-lifted to Wanganui Hospital. Andre was able to talk to me before I was put into the helicopter and I asked him to call my wife Glen and let her know what had happened. Andre said he was unsure when to call Glen as he didn’t really know how I was, but when he had cellphone coverage, called Glen to tell her the news. He, Justin and Jono rode back to Wanganui and saw me in the hospital. My injuries included: a compound fracture to my left humerus, damaged artery and severed median nerve to my left arm and hand, broken sternum and rib, broken nose, broken right thumb, broken neck bone, badly bruised mesentery membrane, and heavy concussion.
Wanganui Hospital was only able to stabilise me and I, with Andre beside me, was then flown to Wellington Hospital for urgent surgery where my broken arm was pinned and a piece of vein from my left groin was grafted to my damaged right arm artery in a 6-hour operation. Glen and my children Craig, Nicola and Abbie flew down to Wellington to be there when I woke from surgery in the morning. My good friends Tig & Marianne and Dale also came down in the morning.
So I was alive, thanks to Dexter, Fiona and her partner, Annie and her daughters, Glenda and the other paramedics, the Lane and his Police colleagues and the amazing doctors and ICU and emergency nurses at Wanganui and Wellington hospitals.
Since there was no plastic surgeon at Wellington Hospital, I had to wait for another facility on another day to repair the other injuries.
So that was Boxing Day, 26 December 2013. More about the subsequent days, weeks and months to follow….