The reality around life-threatening medical assistance at BITD

JrSyko

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This post will probably have some fall out but in light of what's happened at the last two Vegas to Reno races, in particular this last race, and all the other threads and discussions going on about this topic I figured it needed to be said. I almost said something after last year's race but held off, I can't hold off any longer.

Before I delve into the crux of it, some quick background. I've been working behind the scenes the last 2.5 years with all of the Trophy Truck drivers in starting a group called the Premier Truck Collective. The impetus behind this group was in looking for ways to improve safety at the races. Some of you may have noticed that at the last couple of Baja 500 and Baja 1000's (and last year's V2R race) there was another chopper flying over the lead TT. This was a medical chopper that was completely privately paid for by the TT drivers as a result of both SCORE and BITD not having an airborne medical chopper. The logic being that the most likely place we'd need a medical chopper is where the bikes intersect with the lead TTs. However this chopper was NOT just for the TT's but available to anyone in any class who needed it. Our chopper worked closely with both SCORE and BITD to be available in the event of an accident.

The reason we deemed a chopper necessary was upon learning that BITD does NOT have their own chopper on stand by. They rely on the regular, locally based medical evac choppers. The problem with this is if those choppers are busy on other calls (which often times they are) it could be a while before you are rescued. Case in point, at last year's Vegas to Reno race Tim Morton's son crashed and was injured badly. There was no chopper available and the BITD medical director radioed our chopper (I was acting as spotter on our chopper at that race) and asked if we could fly out and pick him up, which we did. We then transported him to the hospital.

Up until this year, SCORE also did not have an airborne medical chopper. They DID have their own dedicated chopper however it was stationed in Ensenada during the entire race. So if there was an accident well down the course it could be a long flight to reach it. This year though, SCORE has agreed to move their chopper down the course and reposition it to be more readily available to respond should it be needed. That is a huge improvement although still not like days where Sal had a medical chopper in air at all times.

This is a key distinction though between BITD and SCORE and why if you are racing BITD do not think that a medical chopper is there waiting for you should you need it. No more unfortunate example of this than the poor rider who lost his life at V2R. As has been previously stated, it was NOT a medical chopper who flew him out of there, it was Steve Menzies in his personal chopper with his personal medic who did. I happened to be at RM 300 where Steve landed with the injured rider on board completely unsure of what to do with him. Steve sat there for about 10 minutes as we tried frantically to figure out what to do. BITD could not locate a proper medical chopper and Steve had no idea where to take him nor does he have the correct licenses and permit to fly an injured person directly to a hospital. Finally it was determined and approved Steve would fly him to a little hospital 20 miles away where a proper medical heli could then pick him up. Credit to BITD though for working through the problems and eventually figuring out a solution.

This lack of a dedicated medical chopper is not new to BITD, I had multiple discussions with Casey about it prior to his passing. He almost refused us the permit to fly our medical chopper at the last V2R race and it took the intervention of a few key people to get him to finally see the light, only to then be reinforced when that very chopper saved the life of Tim Morton's son. Please note, this is also not meant as a critique of BITD medical assistance. Their medical director David Nehrbass does an AMAZING job and in my opinion has much better non-life threatening medical care than any other off-road racing series, SCORE included. They have first rate trucks, properly outfitted and staffed with first class people. However in the event of a life-threatening injury, in a remote area not easily accessed by medical vehicles, if you need medical assistance and the choppers are busy you could be there for a while or praying a well supported TT team is kind enough to land and assist you. I think even David would agree with this.

Even when there is just 1 dedicated medical chopper, there has always been the chance that 2 separate life threatening accidents could occur simultaneous far apart from each other and the medical chopper team would have to choose which they responded too first. That is part of the risks we take when we go racing, however having 1 dedicated chopper is still better than none. At this last V2R the Premier Truck Collective opted not to get our own medical chopper for a variety of reasons which I won't delve into. Perhaps if we had gotten one, it would have been a different outcome. In hindsight its really hard for me to stomach knowing we could have perhaps made a difference and saved a life.

For whatever reason, there seems to be a bigger occurrence of bike guys crashing with life threatening injuries at BITD races so if you plan on racing there you need to know the reality of the situation and that is, there is not a chopper waiting to whisk you off to the hospital should you need it. I believe this needs to change ASAP and have been trying for 2 years to make progress. Perhaps it will take public interest in this topic to finally force a change. Racing is dangerous however there is no reason why in this day and age we can't reduce those dangers a little bit. It could very well be your life one day, or the life of someone you know and care about.
 

vegasloki

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A dedicated medical helo is a good idea. They rent one on standby at the Speedway though there have been times where it had to go to other emergencies. In F1 they don't run unless one is on the ground and is able to fly. In most major sanctions there is also a trauma surgeon onsite. What did that cost you guys to rent the helo?

Another thing to consider is NV has a lack of medical services that hasn't kept pace with the population growth. This includes medical aircraft, doctors and hospitals. There is only one Level 1 trauma center in the state, UMC here in Vegas. There are more Level 2 and some rurals have Level 3. AFAIK Reno area has only a single Level 2. It's not only imperative to get you to the hospital, they need to get you to the right hospital.

In Indycar, Nascar and F1 the sanction medical officers coordinate with the local hospitals prior to the event. Logistically it's easier because those events are in one place. Do the desert racing orgs coordinate and have evac plans to specific hospitals based on location? For the Mint and the So NV loop races it's easy, UMC. But for up toward Reno is there a contingency plan for a severe trauma issue?
 

retroblazer

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I would think that if racers were given the choice, they would put some cash in the pot for a helicopter. I know I would.


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Mark_Weyhrich

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Great post and long overdue.

The "Well-funded" programs take a lot of heat on here, but it should be recognized that along with the TT Collective effort, we and several others have helos with trained medical staff in them at all races. We fund these with our own money so our participants are safe. The unfortunate reality is that we end up sending our resources to other competitors, thereby negating the safety net we paid for for our drivers.

Don't get me wrong, we are always happy to help and it is a primary directive to our pilots to do so. Having said that, it is not our responsibility to protect everyone out there. It is the responsibility of the sanctioning body.
 

Mark_Weyhrich

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I would think that if racers were given the choice, they would put some cash in the pot for a helicopter. I know I would.


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Getting everyone to agree to pay is really easy. Believe it or not, getting them to actually pay is really hard.

Only way to do it is to bury it in the entry fees.
 

retroblazer

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Getting everyone to agree to pay is really easy. Believe it or not, getting them to actually pay is really hard.

Only way to do it is to bury it in the entry fees.
I can't speak for anyone else, but have I no problem being reminded of what my entry fee is covering, especially if it's for my benefit. To your point, it should be part of the entry fee. If we collectively know what it costs to get supplemental air coverage, and we have a couple hundred participants to spread the cost, then we, outside the tt collective have to decide if we want our promoters to provide it.
It would be easier to implement this for the domestic races, given the number of options and the ability to fly 24-7, unlike Mexico.


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pgarfinkle

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This is an amazing initiative and I thank you and the TT group for collectively trying to improve the sport for all participants. A dedicated medical helo has shown, in the case with Tim's son, that it does work.

I would also like to offer another idea that could have an impact in the overall safety of events, particularly in regard to areas a helo can't get to and the space between the TTs and bike/quad classes.

Bare with me as this might get long.

Those that know me personally are aware that I had a crash during the 2015 Silver State 300. While I did not suffer any life threatening injuries, the down time I had since my crash has given rise to a lot of thought about whether I want to race bikes again and if so, do I want to compete in the long races that go through remote areas and have bikes and C/T classes mixed.

Where I crashed was near MM55, in the hills between pit 1 and pit 2. There was no way for me to get out of where I was unassisted and it would have been impossible for a helo to get to me. Thanks to a few fellow racers that got me and my bike of the course. If it had not been for them, things could have gotten much worse quickly, not just for me but for the other races as my bike and I would have been an unexpected hazard on course.

Once I had secured a spot, I tried reaching out on my radio but in that terrain, my handheld didn't return any contact. I filled out my stuck stub and gave to the next racer that stopped.

This is where things started to go a little wrong as the racer with my stuck stub crashed as well at some point before he could hand off the stub and alert the medical staff. I ended up laying on the side of the course for several hours fearing that the TTs would show up before I could get out of there. Luckily some BITD officials made to me in their 4wd trucks and got me out before that happened.

But what if they didn't...

My road to recovery has been a long and difficult one and I am lucky to be on that journey.

Every time the topic of racer safety and responsibility comes up, I relive my accident and wonder what could have been done differently or helped out if those trucks didn't find me in time. I am very much of the mind that racing is dangerous. Off road racing is more dangerous. And off road long distance off road mc racing the most dangerous. I believe that the racer is responsible for understanding that risk. But I also for mitigating that risk whenever possible without comprising the race ethos that attracts the majority of us to this sport.

Those things being said, I would like to entertain the concept of a sweep truck that leaves not long after the last bike off the line and not only identifies downed/injured riders along the way and gets medical attention to them but also acts as a warning system to those back marker bikes/quads that they are in danger of being caught by the lead TTs shortly.

@JrSyko, if you feel this would help and is something to bring to the TT group, let me know and I would be glad to help in any way I can.
 

GunnSlinger

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Trav, much respect for taking this head on and taking a proactive approach. I know how difficult something like this can be and how much BS you have to put up with in order to help someone else.

Kudos to you and your efforts.
 

coolerking

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Great info and feedback here, from the folks that know.
It will be huge to improve the response/transport time when we have a racer in trouble.

My question is this, why are we starting the bikes at 12:01 on thursday morning at this year's 1000?
It seems so counter to everything I've seen discussed here, no helos for 6 hours, no helo to alert the locals of bikes approaching, no eye in the sky to help in the case of a code red. A start time that is unfamiliar for racers and crews and locals alike.
I understand that it will enable a daylight finish for the TTs, and that's what the TV guys like.

I just don't like not having the chopper overhead of the first few riders to give the party animals out there a heads up that a race has started and the course is hot.
 

Honda48X

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Question for the promoters. How much time is spent trying to get some high cash sponsorship and provide a medical helo. How come Golf can get millions for every event they put on? Why are we not getting these beer and other sponsors involved. What is going to be the prize money for the 50th?

I'm talking about sponsors like Monster and Budweiser providing 50 K to the winner and supporting the cost of a medic helo for the race.
 

Jimmy8

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Question for the promoters. How much time is spent trying to get some high cash sponsorship and provide a medical helo. How come Golf can get millions for every event they put on? Why are we not getting these beer and other sponsors involved. What is going to be the prize money for the 50th?

I'm talking about sponsors like Monster and Budweiser providing 50 K to the winner and supporting the cost of a medic helo for the race.
When we get proper exposure and activations like mainstream motorsport. Our TV, yes I am still glad we have it, is lackluster at best (aside from the Mint and the X Games feature a few years back SCORE did). The exposure is not there to justify a major non-endemic brand sponsorship. On site attendance? The maybe 1,000 (I'm probably being generous) non race spectators that showed up to contingency for the longest off-road race in the country last weekend, don't hack it. We need 25 times that the get a Budweiser or a Cheeze-It cracker, or a sunflower seed company to really be able to activate on their sponsorship. There may have been 10,000 people out on course watching V2R, but seeing a silt covered logo on the side of a race vehicle for 5 seconds probably won't have them rushing to the grocery story anytime soon. We have a very difficult sport for sponsors. The Mint 400 is an easy sell, but past that you have to develop your own media. Mexico may get 100,000 spectators at contingency, but those people in most cases are not the audience corporate America is after, as they don't actually live in the US.
 

pgarfinkle

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How come Golf can get millions for every event they put on? Why are we not getting these beer and other sponsors involved. What is going to be the prize money for the 50th?
.
I am sure Travis can answer this better but it all comes down to numbers. For your example of golf, NBCs Golf Channel has 71 million unique viewers. When compared to the arguably largest media success from desert racing, Recoil with BJ, which has just over $3 million views, you can see the gross disparity between what we do and main stream sports. (I did limited research on these numbers so there may different data out there).
 

J Prich

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That "outside" money is mostly a pipedream. And frankly, most people here probably don't want to see what the sport would become if it did what it needed to become to even attempt to chase that kind of sponsorship appeal and money.

The solution is going to have to come from within, as it has always needed to.
 

vegasloki

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Golfing as an industry worldwide is worth about US$70 billion. According to Forbes there are about 2.5 million in the US that play others put that number closer to 20 million.
 

FirePig

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Hi all,

New to this forum but 50 years, off and on, off-road racing experience. All on bikes. I've also worked several Bajas and V2R's as an EMT.

I'm going to watch this discussion but for right now I have one of my volunteer firefighters, I am the chief, who is a trauma nurse at a Level I trauma center and a nurse practitioner who would like to volunteer her services in a helicopter for races. This may cut down on the costs of staffing a bird and get someone highly qualified to an injured competitor. PM me if interested.

Pig out.
 

Honda48X

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I understand most of these answers and I get it, but have they (someone working for SCORE or BITD) really put forth an honest effort to seek sponsorship to at least pay for the medical helicopter. Make some stickers and make every entry place them on both sides of every vehicle. Make them put the name on bike number plates.

The 50th has a little Monster symbol so my question is what type of sponsorship are they providing? 5K, or 25K?
 
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JBSTEVENS44

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Great post and long overdue.

The "Well-funded" programs take a lot of heat on here, but it should be recognized that along with the TT Collective effort, we and several others have helos with trained medical staff in them at all races. We fund these with our own money so our participants are safe. The unfortunate reality is that we end up sending our resources to other competitors, thereby negating the safety net we paid for for our drivers.

Don't get me wrong, we are always happy to help and it is a primary directive to our pilots to do so. Having said that, it is not our responsibility to protect everyone out there. It is the responsibility of the sanctioning body.

If you don't mind sharing what's the cost to hire a helicopter? And a trained medical staff?
 

Goober

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Great info and feedback here, from the folks that know.
It will be huge to improve the response/transport time when we have a racer in trouble.

My question is this, why are we starting the bikes at 12:01 on thursday morning at this year's 1000?
It seems so counter to everything I've seen discussed here, no helos for 6 hours, no helo to alert the locals of bikes approaching, no eye in the sky to help in the case of a code red. A start time that is unfamiliar for racers and crews and locals alike.
I understand that it will enable a daylight finish for the TTs, and that's what the TV guys like.

I just don't like not having the chopper overhead of the first few riders to give the party animals out there a heads up that a race has started and the course is hot.
Daylight finish at the 1000, no way.
 

Offspring

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Steve landed with the injured rider on board completely unsure of what to do with him. Steve sat there for about 10 minutes as we tried frantically to figure out what to do. BITD could not locate a proper medical chopper and Steve had no idea where to take him nor does he have the correct licenses and permit to fly an injured person directly to a hospital
That's a heavy burden right there. Much respect to you all.
 
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