It is a very sad thing for a motorcycle racer to be injured or killed in a race. However they consciously accept the risk for a significant return in the form of adrenaline rushes and the possibility of a trophy.
But when someone who is there to support the sport is hurt, that’s a real tragedy
From a medical perspective, the maximum distance to some form of on-site medical facility from a crash on a short circuit is within a mile, the route to hospital is well known and understood and ambulances can be on circuit within a minute or two from their position trackside. A red flag can clear a track of traffic in 2-3 minutes with most of the track under surveillance either by CCTV or from marshal posts. And typically an air ambulance is available within minutes for most severe cases. Typically speeds on track are low compared to road racing and there is a lot less chance of a serious impact.
Consider a road race. Miles and miles of public roads surrounded by spectators and spectators’ cars and bikes. Incredible speeds and very limited numbers of marshal posts and points for ambulances to access the circuit – most of the circuit is blind to the race officials, and there is nowhere on a road circuit that you would consider ‘safe’ to crash. Then consider how long it takes to red flag a race and get the riders off circuit in order to treat someone.
One critical function vastly improves the care available in the immediate aftermath of a crash – the ‘Flying Doctor’, a paramedic on a motorbike able to join the circuit and get care to injured riders straight away. One of the most well-known and highly respected of these was ‘Doc John’ Hinds. He supported many Irish road races including the NW200 and was responsible for saving the lives of numerous crash victims. Known as an innovator, he was always looking for ways to improve care and was never satisfied that things could not be improved. A prime example of this was his campaigning for an Air Ambulance for Northern Ireland – something the province lacks, to its shame.
Doc John died whilst supporting the Skerries road race at the weekend. He was there to enable riders to ride, racers to race with the best chance of coming home to their families. I can’t imagine anyone wants to have to be first on the scene of a road race crash, facing the very real possibility that you won’t be able to do anything for some of the people you attend. I can’t believe it gets any easier seeing young lives changed forever or ended too soon. But Doc John was willing to do it so that racers could do what they loved.
Doc John was a massive bike fan, his social media reflected his passion for the sport and for his own bikes. He was a highly competent rider with race experience and thousands of miles of support riding on superbikes under his belt. It remains a mystery what caused his accident. He was thirty-five years old.
In his memory, a petition has been started to push ahead with convincing Northern Ireland to catch up with the rest of the UK and organise an air ambulance. if you need some supporting evidence of why this would be a good thing, refer to the case of Violet McAfee who was a spectator at the NW200 and was hit by a crashing bike – the Irish Coastguard had to provide the helicopter to get her to hospital for the treatment she urgently needed. Please, please sign this petition – if not for future patients who will have their lives saved, then in memory of Doc John.