Gerald Cline, 65, admits he’s lucky to be alive or not paralyzed.
On the B.C. Day long weekend, he was mountain-biking the trails of Cumberland when he misjudged a spot on the trail and crashed.
“I zigged when I should have zagged, and I could have killed myself,” he says. “I’m still processing how could I have made that mistake. I’m not blaming anybody else. It’s my fault for making the mistake.”
The accident took place in the late morning on Aug. 5 at the junction of the Bucket of Blood and Bear Buns trails. He’d been on the trail before and says it is not an especially difficult section, but something caught him off guard.
His fellow bikers, some of whom have first-aid, helped look after him, even shading from the sunlight, and helped the Cumberland Fire Department get to him.
“One of the big jobs was to try and find the rescue people,” he says. “They had to carry me some distance, and it’s very unstable ground. This was on the trail itself…. They just did a fabulous job.”
BC Ambulance then transferred Cline to Courtenay Airpark, where he was flown to Victoria that afternoon.
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“When I was on my back, I couldn’t move anything,” he says. “I was able to verbalize, ‘Man down, man down.’ You’ve got to say that because there’s a person probably behind you that’s going to come over the jump and land on you.”
At first, there was concern he might have spinal damage. He did start to get some feeling back in his extremities after about 15 minutes, and by the time he arrived, it was clear his spinal cord was intact. He was discharged from the hospital after they did a CT scan to verify his spine was not broken.
His ribs were bruised but not broken, but he did break his collarbone. The most lasting effect seems to be his left shoulder and arm, which has required a trip to a specialist. All in all, he knows he is lucky though.
“I’m pretty fortunate to be able to walk,” he says.
Cline has ridden the trails of Cumberland many times, as he and his wife Kim live in Comox part of the year and winter down in U.S. He’s a retired pilot and not taking risks was standard procedure for him, so the accident was a bit humbling. He says he is grateful to everyone who helped get him out of the woods safely and send him to hospital.
“They’re all fantastic, and they all followed through,” he says, adding he wants to thank them all in person once he’s more mobile.
He is not sure whether he will mountain bike again. He knows how important the trails are to Cumberland but hopes this kind of incident will prompt a considered discussion about safety in the sport. He likens it to the situation that ski hills faced 60 years ago when they had to respond by making downhill skiing safer.
“I also want to get involved in making sure my accident does not have any impact on the current riding situation in Cumberland,” he adds. “I look forward to trying to help in my own small way.”