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9 years after bike crash on Coquihalla, B.C. woman seeks trio who saved her life

She was seriously injured in July 2011 on her ride from North Vancouver to Canmore, Alberta. Now she wants to find the strangers who helped her.
Danielle Baker-Davidson. Photo via Facebook

Nine years ago, Danielle Baker-Davidson nearly lost her life.

But she didn't, and she'd like to thank the three people for that — a couple, who pulled her unconscious body from the middle of the Coquihalla Highway, and a man she believes was a police officer who helped care for her as they waited for an ambulance on the side of the road.

Baker-Davidson was on a new adventure in July of 2011, riding from North Vancouver to Canmore. The route she had mapped out included the Coquihalla Summit.

"I was new to this kind of trip and it was exciting. I got loaded up and headed out," she tells Castanet. "I got to day two, which was awesome.

"I was really, really excited because I had gotten up over the height of the Coquihalla, where the toll booths used to be and that was sort of my big feat for that day. I was proud of myself."

The notorious highway, often more of a means to an end than an enjoyable trip, was beautiful, she notes, with wildlife easily visible from her bike seat as she rode up the highway on July 22.

After the summit, heading towards Merritt and going downhill, she hit a rough patch on the side of road. Still in control, she passed over the rumble strip and onto the highway for a bit.

After going around a corner, the side of the road looked clear again, so she steered back over the rumble strip.

"I crossed back again and it was just a combination of speed going downhill and crossing the rumble strip; it caused my rear pannier (the bike bag over rear tire) to flex into my rear wheel," Baker-Davidson recalls.

"I remember the feeling of the bike losing control," she adds. "The last memory I have is thinking, 'Wow, this is really going to suck.'"

And it did.

Following the incident, from what's she's been able to piece together, the pannier knocked some spokes out of the wheel and she fell on her left side, sliding on the highway for about 10 feet before coming to a stop. Because her left foot stayed clipped into the bike, her body protected the bike.

Luckily, her helmet was snug, and it likely saved her life (she kept the bashed helmet for years afterwards as a reminder).

The crash left her with a broken collar bone, broken ribs, a brain bleed, a concussion and an epic road rash, which tore through two layers of clothing and into her skin.

She was unconscious and tangled in her bike in the middle of the Coquihalla, Baker-Davidson says.

Thankfully, the next vehicle around the corner wasn't a semi.

"If a transport truck had come around that corner, they wouldn’t have had the option to stop or swerve," she says.

Instead, it was a couple, she thinks, a man and a woman. She can't remember many details about them; however, a few things still come to mind.

"I remember them saying that they came around this corner — it was a blind downhill corner — and they came around and they saw a bike lying in the road and they thought, ‘That was a weird place for someone to leave their bike, where would the cyclist be?’" Baker-Davidson tells Castanet. "And in that split second, saw me attached to it."

The couple moved quick to pull her on to the shoulder of the highway.

At some point after that a third person stopped, a man she believes was an off-duty police officer, who was very caring.

"I woke up to these strangers. ... I remember when I was trying to piece together what was going, I remember pointing to my bike and saying, ‘Oh, I think I was riding my bike.’ Obviously!" Baker-Davidson says with a laugh. "And raising my arm up and feeling my collar bone coming apart and grinding."

"I was in so much shock I just said, 'Oh, I think my collar bone is broken,'" she adds.

The trio stayed with her until an ambulance arrived, which took her to Merritt for X-rays. Because of her brain injury, she was brought to Kamloops for scans and monitoring. Luckily, the brain bleed healed on its own. 

The concussion made her feel dizzy for months after the crash, she says. Eventually, she did get on the same bike again, and rode it to the point of being comfortable on it. Then she sold it to a friend and hasn't bought a road bike since.

"I didn’t want it to be something I’m scared of, but I also realized how much of that ride for me was really sort of bravery and ignorance," she says.

However, she still bikes. Baker-Davidson is actually a professional writer who specializes in writing about mountain bikes (she jokes she's better off in the forest than on the road).

"Since the accident I’ve finished my photography diploma, I’ve started working as a writer, I’ve met my husband, I’ve moved to Squamish," she says. "It’s been pretty awesome."

Last year she turned 40 and got married. This year, as the pandemic took hold, it got her thinking.

"These people saved my life and they’re the reason I have this incredible life that I have," she says. "I was thinking if I was somebody who had helped a stranger, how much I would love to know that that person’s life went on to be pretty awesome."

And so she posted on Facebook the other day, and began the search for the couple and the cop. 

The person she believes was a police officer is her best chance for a reunion, she says.

"In my head, I always thought it was an off-duty police officer that had stopped but to be honest I’m not sure," Baker-Davidson says. "I know he was plain clothed in an unmarked SUV and he had a light on the dash."

He was Caucasian and didn't have a discernible accent, she adds. The couple was also Caucasian with no memorable accent or barrier in communication, she says, but they could have been tourists.

"About them, specifically, I have very little memory," she says. "I can’t remember any faces. I’m very sure it was a man and a woman. I’m very sure they had a small car, for some reason I think it was blue, but I’m not positive on that detail."

Baker-Davidson remains hopeful someone will recognize the story, since it's a fairly dramatic one.

"The main details I have to go from is it happened on the Coquihalla just outside of Merritt on July 22, 2011," she says. "Hopefully there weren’t a lot of downed cyclists that day."

Her Facebook post has over 6,000 shares so far, and her story has been shared within the RCMP. She checked with the Merritt RCMP, but the incident isn't on file. A paramedic friend had a colleague reach out, though.

"I have a friend who is a paramedic who had another friend who is a paramedic reach out and said, 'Oh, I think I transported her,'" she says. "I’m waiting to get in touch with him."

The post has also garnered hundreds of comments, many of which are stories from others talking about how strangers helped them. Some are from people who helped strangers and wonder how that person is doing today.

"So much of social media can be really negative and this has been such a positive outpouring," Baker-Davidson says.

That positivity is important right now, she adds.

"I feel like now I need to find them because we all need a feel-good story," she says.

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