Belinda Williams crashed, and her helmet worked
Summary: Belinda Williams had a terrible crash! Her helmet worked.
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2012
From: Belinda Williams
Subject: A helmet that worked in the most extreme circumstance
I consider myself an experienced cyclist. I know the laws, and I generally follow them, although I have been known to break
speed limits during descents. I follow the same rules as apply to drivers. I even used to write a weekly column on cycling,
with a strong focus on laws and safety. My bicycle was also my chosen and ONLY form of transportation.
September 18th, 2011, would be a ride like no other. It was to be my last group ride of the season, riding my favorite
ascent, Mount Evans. The road on Mount Evans is the highest paved road in North America, reaching an elevation of more than
14000 feet. The road is littered with ruts and potholes, but having ridden it as often as I did, I knew every turn, rut,
and pothole. The forces I couldn't control were those associated with Nature, and even there I'd thought I'd encountered
and could handle everything... Wind, rain, hail, snow, lightning striking close enough to feel the electricity and smell
the ionized air, etc. I was wrong.
I wasn't 100% that brisk September day, and headed back down the mountain early, albeit not alone. One other rider
accompanied me. On the descent, I found myself battling strong head winds, and going far slower than I typically would
descend the mountain. Even so, my friend fell behind and lost sight of me.
On a straight section I would usually reach speeds of around 45 mph, I found myself barely able to break 30 mph. However,
as I approached the turn at the end of the straightaway, the headwind suddenly became a strong tailwind, nearly doubling my
speed. When I applied my brakes, I began to skid, so I reduced pressure to pull out of it. However; I found myself unable
to slow down.
When I realized I wouldn't successfully negotiate the turn, I attempted to fall on the incline. Unfortunately, I was now
riding through cross winds, which took me in the opposite direction, straight over a cliff. I plunged 30 feet to the
granite boulders below.
I'm certain I was briefly unconscious. When I was next aware, I found myself flat on my back on the boulders. The road
above was invisible to me, so I knew I was invisible to it. I called out for my friend, but knew he was already well past.
Likewise, I knew my other friends wouldn't hear me yelling, as the noise of the wind during their descent would drown out
all else. It was cold, and cars would have their windows closed. I found myself unable to roll over, and unable to reach my
cell phone. My only hope would be another cyclist coming up the mountain, or if my friends searched for me in time and
I yelled for an eternity. I grew weak, sleepy, and cold. I almost gave up. Finally, a cyclist from Switzerland heading up
the mountain heard me and flagged down some help. It had been 45 minutes since my accident. I was airlifted to the nearest
I had 9 spinal fractures, all in my neck and thoracic spine, including the top two vertebrae in my cervical spine. My rib
cage and right scapula were shattered. Both lungs were punctured, and I had severe lacerations to my left kidney and
spleen. My internal bleeding was massive. My head, however, had a single gash, and in a location that wasn't protected by
my Giro Atmos helmet. The helmet itself had more than a dozen cracks and multiple crush zones. While a fall like that far
exceeds CPSC standards of testing, there is little doubt that the helmet saved my life. I still have it. I spent 10 days in
ICU, and nearly a month in hospital. My injuries were consistent with a fall from that height. However; the mild traumatic
brain injury I suffered was minimal.
I've since had to have spinal surgery to remove bone fragments and damaged disks from my neck, fusing 4 levels. I'm on the
mend, though. I can walk, my faculties are intact, and I even seem to be regaining coordination in my left hand. I remain
in severe pain, but I'm alive. I'll likely even ride again! Life is good.
Wearing my new helmet.