The Last Ride
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 3 PATRICK MAGILL
C Company, 3-140th Security and Support Aviation Battalion
New Mexico Army National Guard
Las Cruces, New Mexico
It was early spring and the weather was just starting to warm up. My friend, Ronnie, and I decided it was a good day to go four wheeling, so we planned to meet later in the desert a few miles behind my house. Since Ronnie was bringing his girlfriend, I decided to invite someone, too, so I wouldn’t be a third wheel. Although I wasn’t acquainted with any of my neighbors, I went next door and asked the woman who lived there if she wanted to come with us. Surprisingly, she said she would love to go. Everything was set; I would pick her up and we would drive to the riding spot on my Yamaha Rhino side-by-side all-terrain vehicle.
Once in the desert, I began going up and down some steep hills. My neighbor loved it; she was having a blast. We were the only ones out there, so Ronnie and I took turns driving since neither of the girls had ever been on a Rhino. Ronnie didn’t have that much driving experience on the Rhino, and when he made a sharp turn on a hill, I got a little scared because these ATVs have a tendency to roll over. I thought about telling him to take it easy on the turns, but I didn’t want to call him out in front of his girlfriend.
Ronnie continued to go up and down the hill and then flew right past me as he and his girlfriend laughed. When he tried to turn the Rhino again, it overturned and slammed onto its side. The laughter was replaced with screams, and I heard Ronnie yelling my name.
I ran over to them as fast as I could and — shockingly — lifted up the Rhino back onto its wheels by the roll bar. I then looked at Ronnie’s girlfriend and saw that her arm was bleeding profusely. I started to panic. By this time, my neighbor had also reached the Rhino. She immediately grabbed Ronnie’s girlfriend’s arm and put pressure on her injury. She told me she was a nurse and that Ronnie’s girlfriend had an arterial bleed. She said if we didn’t get her to the hospital quickly, she would die.
I hopped into the Rhino and tried to start it, but it wouldn’t crank. I then tried calling 911, but my cellphone didn’t have any service. Fortunately, I was finally able to start the Rhino. With my neighbor still applying pressure to Ronnie’s girlfriend’s arm, we all got onto the Rhino and I drove us through the desert to the nearest hospital.
I came out on a newly constructed road that led me right to the hospital. Only about four minutes had passed by the time we reached emergency entrance, and Ronnie’s girlfriend was going into shock. We were all covered in blood as we kicked on the door, screaming for the hospital staff to let us into the emergency room. Luckily, staff members recognized my neighbor and opened the door for us.
Ronnie’s girlfriend was flown to the nearest level one trauma hospital, where doctors performed emergency surgery. She remained in intensive care for the next two days. At first, we were worried she may lose her arm; but that wasn’t the case. The doctors did tell us that if it wasn’t for my neighbor’s quick thinking, Ronnie’s girlfriend might have bled out within two to three minutes.
This accident gave Ronnie and me a new perspective on life and just how fragile it can be. One moment we were all having fun and laughing; the next moment, one of us nearly lost her life. Before participating in any off-roading activities, make sure you have the proper training and personal protective equipment. Without it, your next ride could be your last.
The ATV Safety Institute’s Golden Rules
- Always wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
- Never ride on paved roads except to cross when done safely and permitted by law; another vehicle could hit you. All-terrain vehicles are designed to be operated off-road.
- Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
- Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and no more than one passenger on an ATV specifically designed for two people.
- Ride an ATV that's right for your age.
- Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.
- Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
- Take a hands-on ATV RiderCourse and the free online E-Course. Visit ATVsafety.gov or call 800.887.2887.
Did You Know?
Professional training can help lower the risk of being involved in an all-terrain vehicle accident. However, less than 10 percent of all ATV drivers and only about one-quarter of new drivers receive professional training, according to ATVsafety.gov.