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Road King vs Tractor Trailer

This article courtesy of the Naval Safety Center Smart Ride 2011 Magazine. Please also check out their website, the Naval Safety Center.

BY CHRIS FIELD, MSgt. USMC, Ret.

This is the story of how I about got taken out by a tractor trailer one morning last December on my way to work. I was on Highway 17 right in front of the back gate of Marine Corps Air Station New River.

I had just turned onto the highway, heading for Camp Lejeune at 0600, and I saw a row of reflective lights in the left turn lane. Then they disappeared as a set of headlights went across my field of vision headed into the back gate of the Air Station. Then all I saw was a white wall of tractor trailer.

I was still accelerating, but I quickly grabbed some brakes, slid on the front tire for about 20 to 30 feet, searched for an exit, then hit the brakes again as the cab of the truck had already passed through the traffic islands. The trailer must have been the longest allowed, as it was still in the median. All I could see was the bottom of the trailer (at chest level), trailer landing gear, and the spare tire cage hanging down under the trailer.

With nowhere else to go I had to lay it down. The left side of the bike and I slid on the crash bars and up under the truck. All I saw were sparks.

I hit the ground on my cell phone (which is still working fine but deeply scratched). As I slid and rolled, the right handlebar and mirror hit the bottom of the trailer and flipped the bike back over to the right side and continued to slide hitting the curb of the outbound lane of the base, and then it slid across the road into the median.

I jumped up and screamed toward the truck that amazingly, continued on toward the gate! A passer by stopped to make sure I was alright and helped me put my bike up on the kickstand. Then I took off running to the gate guards to get the MPs and stop the truck.

Lucky for me (note the sarcasm) it was 1 December and there were all new guards on the gates and no one knew what to do. As the sentry was calling the MPs, the truck was being inspected at the inspection station that is parallel to the street where the gate is. It felt like five minutes went by as I was pacing back and forth outside the guard shack (adrenaline pumping) but the sentry finally came out. I asked him if someone was coming and he said “I’m not sure.”

Just then I was looking through the guard shack and saw the truck pulling out of the parking lot. So I took off running through the ditch and wood line to the inspection lot to try to stop the truck. There were three Marines sitting there as I told them what happened and they said “We need to call someone.”

Just then an MP car pulled into the lot. I jumped in the car with him and we went out to the crash scene. As we were going out the gate he realized they had to call the county and/or state to coordinate the off base wreck.

Forty minutes later, the state trooper arrives, gets my story and then asks the MP if he had details on the truck. He had to get it from the log book at the inspection lot, but the info was bogus – a bad phone number and a license plate to the trailer, but not the cab.

At least the MP noticed that the truck driver was heading to the commissary, so he went to see if he was still there. He wasn’t, as over an hour had passed by now. He checked the log book again and found this truck driver was a regular and he was able to get the driver’s cell number and an 800 number for his company. The cell phone went straight to voice mail, but the 800 number was a good one.

They couldn’t reach him but had GPS on the truck and traced him in Warsaw, N.C. The state trooper caught up with him the next day and showed him the black mark under his trailer and said the guy about peed when he saw it. Claimed he didn’t see anything.

I ended up with two broken ribs and where my cell phone dug into my hip I had a deep bruise. On my right side I shredded my pants and ripped a hole in my leather jacket elbow and the palms of my gloves were blown out too. It was cold out that morning so I had Gortex gloves on. I have a raspberry about the size of a softball on the side of my thigh. And he didn’t see anything!?!

Nonetheless, due to my cat-like reflexes, advanced motorcycle training, AMOS (Advanced Motorcycle Operators School put on by Keith Code’s California Superbike School), and 22 years in the Marine Corps (where I learned how to fall), I walked away.

I’ve seen this stunt done on TV and in movies, and now I know it’s not that hard since I managed to do it in the dark, on my first try. I just didn’t come out the other side on my wheels.

The PPE I had on saved me from any road rash and the training and experience that I have prevented me from panicking. It could have been much worse.

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