A five-rider crash on a high-speed descent at the 1000 Warriors Race has left three people in hospital, one with critical injuries. The race on Saturday was held in conjunction with the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
The five riders included Dave Collins, Steve Beck, Mike Skousen, Wayne Smith and Grant Taylor - all members of the Red Mountain Brumpys Cycling Club from Mesa, Arizona. They crashed in to the back of a Ford Explorer that had stopped suddenly in front of them on the way down American Fork Canyon, hitting the back of the vehicle at approximately 64 km/hour. The vehicle stopped to avoid a truck pulling a trailer. The road was not closed to traffic.
“They had a rolling enclosure for the road race but people came back out as soon as the police went by,” said race promoter and cycling enthusiast Rick Bennett. “UDOT did not think it warranted a full road closure. We need to reach out to UDOT because that is a treacherous road and we have to have them close it in the future. If we don’t get full enclosure then this ride will never happen again.
“We need to be positive in looking forward rather than point fingers,” he added. “I have never seen so many cars up there before. By the grace of God we could have had a fatality there. We want to see what we can learn from this.”
Collins bore the brunt of the accident when he went through the vehicle’s rear window. According to group leader Sterling Baer, he was airlifted to the University of Utah Hospital. He underwent three surgeries over 13 hours to correct a broken jaw, facial bones, a punctured lung and a cut from his sternum to his ear that severed his jugular vein. Doctors report that despite his extensive injuries, they are positive he will make a full recovery.
Beck hit the back door of the vehicle and suffered a partially collapsed lung along with lacerations that required extensive stitching. He was taken to the Intermountain health Centre in Murray. Skousen slid through broken glass and needed some 30 stitches while Smith and Taylor crashed trying to avoid the vehicle and treated for significant road rash at the American Forks Hospital.
Two EMT trained cyclists and a former military nurse were present amongst the group who assisted the victims until ambulances arrived. One of the three helpers has not been identified yet.
“The first guy on scene was Judd, who was one of the Warrior riders and he is a physical therapist getting his Ph.D.,” said Bennett. “Another was an Orthodontist, Gary Hope, who came on scene and the third was a bystander who came over and said he was a Doctor and helped. The three of them did some miraculous work.”
Baer led 45 cyclists that included the five riders who were involved in the accident. The American Fork Canyon is a narrow and twisty descent located approximately half way through the 155km race.
“As an epilogue to what would have otherwise been a great day racing through some gorgeous country, I am sure that I can speak for my friends by saying that this was an unfortunate accident,” said Baer. “I am sure that they would hope that we all get back on our bikes and ride in a sport that we all love.
“I have read many negative commentaries about us cyclists and when incidents like this happen, it is important that as a greater cycling community, we stand together and support each other and continue to promote opportunity for participating in our sport,” he added. “If we allow antagonists to pressure events to be cancelled or limited in the future, we all suffer for it. While the accident was unfortunate, I support the efforts of Rick Bennett in doing everything possible to organise a safe race.”
The course routed the same stage four circuit as the Tour of Utah, a 155km road race starting in Park City. The notoriously epic route included three lengthy climbs, culminating at the top of the Snow Bird Ski Resort. The race started five hours before the professional men’s field.
Proceeds from the race entry fees went to support the Tour of Utah. Cyclists and spectators contributed to the Wounded Warriors Children’s Scholarship Fund while some 650 Warriors started the race.