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Mountain biker survives freak accident in Vail, credits good Samaritan

When John Crandall crashed his bike on the trail, part of his handlebar impaled his upper leg near his groin. Another cyclist nearby rushed to help.

VAIL, Colo. — A week ago, they were strangers. 

Today, one mountain biker owes the other a lifetime of beer. 

John Crandall is recovering after a freak mountain biking accident in Vail last weekend.  

“I was doing a run called Radio Flyer,” Crandall said. 

“Anyone who is familiar knows, there are a lot of close-proximity trees. High speed. Jumps. That was all behind me. I had gotten through most of the aspen groves and some other connector trails. I was just approaching base area, there was a little washed out gravel switchback. My front tire took a rut and I lost it.” 

But as Crandall fell, he was still entangled with his bike. 

“The main contact point when I hit the ground was my left handlebar grip into my groin area, and that went in about 5 inches,” he said. “I initially thought I hit my artery, my femoral artery. So, I thought I had minutes [to live]. The amount of blood on my leg was so profuse, I started calling loved ones.” 

Crandall called his girlfriend first, and told her to call his parents. They all live out of state. Then he started calling for help. 

“I heard an accident of some sort, then I heard him starting to yell and call for 911,” remembers Paul Hagerty, who was biking with his son, Drew, just a little farther ahead on the trail. 

“When I got close to him, there was just a tremendous amount of blood. I could tell it was a flesh injury.” 

Hagerty – who once worked as an EMT back during his teenage years and early 20s - applied pressure to the wound. His son, Drew, got back on the phone with Crandall’s girlfriend. They called first responders. Hagerty stripped off one of his shirts and, together, they tied a tourniquet around Crandall’s upper leg, hoping that could help the bleeding. 

And Paul tried to keep John calm while they waited. 

“He kept me up, telling me jokes, checking my pulse, keeping me in the game,” Crandall said. 

“John is a pilot. I’m a pilot on the side, as is my son,” Hagerty said. “I felt that was a good topic to talk to him and keep him calm.” 

Soon, paramedics showed up and whisked Crandall to the hospital where he had emergency surgery. Doctors gave him good news: the bike handle that impaled his upper leg/groin did not hit any major arteries or organs, and he is expected to make a full recovery. 

“I’m blessed, to say the least,” Crandall said. “The fact that a good Samaritan stepped in, with all the negativity in the world, it blows my mind.” 

“When he texted he said [to tell me he] was in the operating room, everything’s OK, nothing major happened, I’m going to have a full recovery - That was probably the best text I’d gotten,” Hagerty said. 

Hagerty, who was visiting Colorado from Philadelphia when this happened, shrugs off the praise.  

“I was very much in the moment,” he said. 

“I told him, ‘You would have done the same thing, John.’ You know, when someone is coming up to you and they’re bleeding and they just need help, and they’re asking for help, you jump in and you give them help.” 

Crandall spends most of his free time in the mountains – biking, snowboarding, hiking – and plans to return as soon as he’s healthy enough to do so. But this accident has given him some new perspective. 

“I think the number one thing is -- stay prepared. Bring a medical kit with you, be with a buddy. Have some medical knowledge. I think we can all get complacent doing all these Colorado outdoor activities, thinking we’re going to be just fine. But you can find yourself in a situation that’s so dangerous, just like that,” he said. 

“And the second thing to take away from this is text your friends, your loved ones, check in with them on a daily basis. Tell your loved ones you love them… and don’t take any moment for granted.” 

Hagerty is back in Philadelphia now, and Crandall is back home on the Front Range. But the two plan to stay in touch. 

“We did discuss some future cold beers, after my recovery,” Crandall said. “I’d say I owe him at least a few cases!” 

That makes Hagerty laugh.  

After such an intense introduction, of course he’ll join Crandall for a beer. 

“He promises me some beer so I might have to go back to Denver and take him up on that!” 

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