Trouble in Hawaii

BY DOUG SIMMONS

I am lucky enough to be living and riding on Oahu, in the great state of Hawaii. I moved out here about two years ago to take a new job.I have been riding for 40 years and currently ride a 2011 stock Harley-Davidson Road King. I was looking for a group to ride with when I first arrived on Oahu. I hung around with the Honolulu Harley Owners Group (HOG) chapter for a while and decided to join the chapter. I had never met a group of more friendly and welcoming people in my life.

On Dec. 30, 2015, I was on the way to meet a friend and go for a ride on the North shore. (You can do that here in short sleeves, in December!). As I was going up the on ramp to the freeway I was involved in a multiple car collision when someone decided to stop suddenly on the ramp. I went from 35 miles an hour to zero in an instant and collided with a truck in front of me.

When I awoke I was under the truck and badly injured. I was transported to a local trauma center and then admitted to intensive care with eight broken ribs and a left shoulder broken in four places, not to mention numerous road rash scars on many parts of my body.

I was not wearing a helmet. I had on a T-shirt, leather vest, jeans and boots, and fingerless leather gloves. The weather was clear, a beautiful day and the roads were dry. It was about 10 o’clock in the morning.

The accident occurred on the on-ramp to the H-1 freeway at Pearl City. This ramp and intersection have a strange set up and could be confusing to someone not familiar with the area. There are three lanes on the ramp side. The farthest lane to the right feeds into the on ramp and the other two lanes continue under the freeway.

There are two stoplights that control these lanes. If you are going to the on-ramp you are not required to stop. The way the stoplights are positioned, if you are not familiar with the setup it would be easy to think that the stop light affected the far right lane and you might stop when it was not required.

On the right hand side of the road is a postage stamp size sign informing you that your lane may proceed and does not have to stop. The speed limit on the on ramp is 35mph.

I was proceeding up the start of the ramp behind three vehicles. As we reached about 35mph the lead vehicle suddenly slammed on the brakes and stopped. I believe they were confused by the stop lights in close proximity to the ramp. The number two vehicle swerved to avoid hitting the stopped vehicle. The number three vehicle, a truck directly in front of me, had no time to react and slammed into vehicle number two.

I had just kicked the bike into third gear and was starting to accelerate when I witnessed the truck to my front impacting vehicle number two. It happened so fast that the trucks brake lights never came on.

I was about one car length behind the truck. I locked up the brakes and the bike began to skid on some loose gravel in the road. The front forks turned sideways. As I let off the brakes to try and recover I realized that I was going to hit the truck and I had no escape route. I hit the brakes again and laid the bike down. The last thing I remembered was impacting the rear of the truck. This all took place in less than a second.

I was knocked unconscious by the impact. When I woke, I was under the truck and I was looking at the rear suspension and wondering, “How the heck did I get here?”

I am single and live alone. I realized when I came to in the hospital that no one knew where I was. All my blood relations live on the mainland. I got a patient representative to log onto my Facebook account and I left a message that I had been in an accident. Within the hour people from both HOG chapters started showing up at the hospital, and there were a lot of them.

They figured out where my bike had been taken to, got a power of attorney person to my room so that I could sign for another member to go check on my bike. They contacted my work, called my family on the mainland and began taking care of everything that needed doing.

Several of the guys went to the impound lot and got my bike and dropped it off at a custom bike shop to be assessed and repaired. They got all the stuff out of my saddle bags too.

When it was apparent that I was going to be in the hospital for several weeks another chapter member went to my place and got my cat and took her to his house for the duration.

After three weeks, I was to be discharged, but I was far from being able to care for myself. Two chapter members picked me up, brought me to their home, got a hospital bed delivered and cared for me for three weeks until I was able to go home and finish recuperating. They helped me in and out of bed every day, took me to all my appointments, fed me, and took care of everything else that needed to be done.

During this time other chapter members came to visit me and brought me cigars, which I greatly appreciated. I offered to pay my caregivers something but they absolutely refused. In fact no one would take anything from me. I was “Ohana,” or family. There is a very strong sense of Ohana on the islands but I never really understood it until I was in need. I will be forever grateful for my HOG Ohana for coming to my rescue.

I am back on the road now, my 2011 Road King looks better than before the wreck, and I am riding with my chapter again. If you are ever visiting the Oahu please look us up. We would love to go for a ride with you. I now never ride anywhere without safety gear.

Doug Simmons is a program analyst, mishap record and recording program manager for the Navy. His bike of choice is the Harley-Davidson Road King. However, due to his knee cap injury he had to switch from two to three wheels.