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507th ARW budget analyst recovers from motorcycle crash

Motorcycle Safety Month

Photo illustration by Maj. Jon Quinlan

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- May kicks off Motorcycle Safety Awareness month where drivers of all vehicles are reminded to share the road with motorcyclists and for one member of the 507th Air Refueling Wing, this message is especially important.

Gary Alexander, 507th Air Refueling Wing budget analyst, is recovering from injuries sustained after a car struck his 2013 Harley Davidson Softail Slim while driving through an intersection in Oklahoma City on March 29.

Alexander was passing through the stop light at the N 10th St. and Dewey Avenue when a car making a left hand turn ran into his side.

"I physically saw the car hit my leg and watched it snap," said Alexander. "Right after that, I remember flying through the air and bouncing off her windshield and then falling back to the ground with my head next to her tire and my shoulder near my bike."

He looked over at his leg after he landed and was shocked to see it and his left arm both snapped and sitting at a 90 degree angle.

"I couldn't look at it anymore. When you see things that look like that, it just doesn't look right," he said. "I'm actually surprised I didn't pass out from the shock."

Before being transported to the hospital, the firemen on scene needed to reset his leg to get it into an air splint.

"They told me that I was not transportable the way my leg was because any little bump or sudden jar could sever an artery and that would create a whole new set of problems," Alexander said. "They had to do it with no medication. They gave me a warning countdown and then reset. I was screaming very loudly and I was not using a lot of nice language in the process."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over two thirds of fatal motorcycle crashes happen when the vehicle strikes the motorcycle while making a left hand turn - usually at an intersection.

"We learned about that in the safety course I just finished," Alexander said. "They warned us to watch for this sort of thing, but I didn't see her until her car was hitting me."

It doesn't take a high rate of speed to cause a lot of damage to a motorcycle and its operator. Alexander said neither vehicle was traveling more than eight to 12 mph.

"The mass of that car and the mass of my bike coming together smashes bones pretty easily," he said.

For Alexander, one six-hour surgery was needed on his leg and wrist. A titanium rod was inserted through his tibia. A t-plate with seven screws was inserted into his wrist.

After 14 days in the hospital, Alexander came home and the long physical therapy process began. He spends every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in therapy for an hour and a half. Alexander said after six or seven months of this he should be almost fully recovered.

"Because of the way the steel plate is situated in my wrist, I will probably not get full mobility back," He said.

Although Alexander doesn't believe the driver of the car saw him, he remembers the instructor in the motorcycle training course said, 'motorcycles are a small object. People pay attention to things that can cause them harm.'

"You might as well be a June bug flying down the road," Alexander said. "You're going to splatter on their wind shield."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 460 motorcyclists were killed in traffic related crashes in 2012 and a vehicle was involved in 50 percent of them. Motorcycle Safety Awareness month is just one effort to get cyclists and vehicle operators alike to become more safety conscious.