Some motorcyclists describe their desire to ride as exhilarating, and addicting. But sometimes, that feeling of excitement turns to grief. Thirteen riders experienced both– all within seconds– and lived to tell about it.
All of the motorcyclists share the same faith, and a love for motorcycles. But now they share a very special bond not many people share. They all survived a terrible accident just over seven years ago.
Now they’re sharing their story across the world through their LIFE Riders Ministry, in hopes of making a difference in people’s lives.
Scott Vernon says June 10, 2012 is a marker in his life, and something he’ll never forget.
He and twelve other men from church got on their motorcycles and took a trip from Mobile to the Great Smoky Mountains. Soon, they were in Tennessee on Highway 72.
“Straight, narrow, Highway 72. No reason in the world there should have been any accident,” said Sam Wooley.
But there was an accident. One Wooley says he feels lucky he survived.
He said, “One approaching car. At the last minute he was distracted with something going on in his back seat so he reached back, and as he reached back, he pulled the wheel at a 45-degree angle into 13 riders.”
Vernon watched it all happen, and he says the riders had “milliseconds” to react.
“I was second behind the leader. We ride in a stagger formation and that literally happened a few feet from me,” said Vernon.
He says he’s never seen or heard anything like it. He told Cherish Lombard, “I’ve never been in a war zone, but that’s what I imagine it looking like. There was stuff everywhere. Motorcycles and car parts and people.”
Three riders went down. One member of the group started counting the riders. One of them was missing.
Vernon said, “He only came up with 12 guys, and somebody said, where’s Sam? And I remember that statement, what do you mean, where’s Sam? Sam’s right here. But Sam was up in the trees.”
Then they saw him.
“What I remember is I hit the ground real hard. It threw me a good 15 feet from where he hit me and kind of a helicopter spin and then I hit a tree and up underneath this tree, on the other side of the ditch, that just knocked the breath out of me and I’m just thinking, wow, and all of a sudden it’s just silent,” said Wooley.
The men who weren’t hurt ran to Sam.
“As one is cradling my head, he’s praying for me, and then after that, the guy cradling my head, he said, “Sam, so you want to know how bad this is?” and I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “You’re going to lose your leg,” said Wooley. “They had actually had to unwrap my leg from around a tree.”
He was flown to the trauma center at the University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville where his leg was amputated. The next day, Sam says he decided he wasn’t going to look back.
He said, “After my wife got there, these guys come into my hospital room and they said, are you going to ride again? And my wife was the first one that spoke up and she said, “Certainly he’s going to ride again.”
Seven months later, after his body healed, he was back on his bike. And he still rides today.
“I would say if you enjoy doing what you did before I would say try it. Shake it out and get back on the bike again. Don’t let an event stop something you truly enjoy doing. I truly enjoy riding motorcycles,” said Wooley.
In fact, 12 of the 13 men involved in the “Miracle on Highway 72” as they now call it, still ride their motorcycles.
“It was a pretty traumatic deal, even though I wasn’t injured physically, it really shook me up for quite a while. Just remembering and probably thinking about what could’ve happened,” Vernon told News 5.
He says the man who caused the crash was under house arrest at the time, and he was taken to jail. Some of the riders have tried to contact him, but they haven’t been able to reach him. They want to let him know, that they forgive him.
Both men told News 5 they are a little more cautious on their bikes these days, but say it never crossed their minds to stop riding. They said they don’t think most drivers are looking for motorcycles, but if they could ask one thing, they would ask that all drivers look twice for motorcycles, and will be more aware.
You can learn more about the LIFE Riders at: https://liferidersmm.com/