Friday, August 02, 2013

TOP STORY >> Run over while bicycling to base

19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Struck by a car and left for dead, Senior Master Sgt. Maurice Milstead of Austin was experiencing every cyclist’s nightmare scenario.

On Feb. 14, 2012, the 19th Equipment Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight superintendent at Little Rock Air Force Base set off to work like any other morning.

He woke up around 4:30 a.m., made his morning cup of espresso and geared up for a chilly commute on his $4,500 bike, which he built in his home .

The 14-mile ride was one that he had made at least a hundred times. While not without risk, the 45-minute trip from his home to Little Rock Air Force Base could hardly be described as playing in traffic.

“Everything was normal that day,” Milstead said. “It was February, so it was still a little bit cool, and during the winter I layer up, which worked out very well for me.

“I also had two blinking lights on, one on my backpack and one on my bike,” he added. “Then I had my headlight, which is about 450 lumens and is pretty bright. It actually looks like a car coming at you.”

As he approached the five-mile mark of his route, Milstead’s trip had been just like any other morning ride.

“I was heading up a hill on Second Street in Cabot, and there aren’t typically a lot of cars on the road at that time of day,” Milstead said.

“When I ride, I use the lane of traffic like a vehicle would, as allowed by law, and use the shoulder as a safety precaution. You can generally hear vehicles coming, and some will even honk to let you know they’re coming,” he noted.

What happened next sent Milstead on the ride of his life.

“It’s a straight road, and I started going up the hill,” he said. “I don’t remember anybody passing me on the road that morning. The first thing I do remember was hearing this loud noise.

“I don’t remember getting struck, or feeling like I was struck, I just remember losing control and hitting the ground thinking ‘oh man this is crazy.’ It was so loud, and I looked up and the guy just kept going,” he said.

Milstead had been hit, sideswiped by a passing car. The impact was strong enough to send him tumbling out of control and rolling through a wide patch of gravel on the side of the road.

When he finally skidded to a stop, he was nearly 15 feet from where the vehicle had hit him.

“I’m lying there, I look up and it’s just like a daze,” Milstead said. “I’ve broken bones before while riding, and so I did a systems check. Everything moved so I got up and, I thought, I probably shouldn’t be standing up.

“There was nobody around, so I grabbed my phone, which I keep in my backpack, and I called my wife. But she didn’t answer, so I left her a message. It was something like, ‘Hey, I got hit by a car.’ I was very nonchalant about it because I was OK.

“I was sore, but I felt like I had a broken rib. A few cars stopped to see if I needed help, and one woman and her son commented that they pass me every morning, but I’m almost never laying on the ground.”

Milstead’s wife, Kathryn, was concerned, but this was not the first time she’d received a call informing her that her husband had been in an accident.

Nearly two years before, while stationed in England, Milstead had fallen while trail riding and broken his ankle. This time they were both more prepared for the situation.

“I found the voicemail and grabbed the kids out of bed and got them on the bus,” Kathryn said. “I wasn’t sure what to make of it. He sounded more ticked off than hurt. There were definitely a few expletives in there. We were still new to the area, and I wasn’t exactly sure where he was. I was a little worried, but glad that he was coherent.”

His next call was to his office to inform them he’d been in an accident. Shortly after, the police arrived to make a report, and the driver of the car returned to the scene.

Milstead was taken to the hospital for X-rays, which were negative.

After a few days of rest, he was able to resume riding. A return to the scene of the accident provided a few souvenirs. The cover of the car mirror and a bicycle rim were the only traces of the accident, outside of Milstead’s scrapes and bruises.

His bike was a complete loss. He cited the reimbursement and opportunity to build a new bike as the only bright side of the experience.

A meeting with the 19th Airlift Wing safety office revealed that Milstead had made all of the correct safety precautions. This was simply an unfortunate case of an inattentive driver.

“Some of the best advice I can give to other riders is to be seen, be predictable and anticipate what drivers might do,” Milstead said.

“Some other good things you can do,” he continued, “is make sure you tell people your route or where you’ll be riding, wear the appropriate safety gear and have an emergency kit with you.”

The sergeant said, “It’s important to know your limits, stay hydrated, and follow the rules of the road.”