A life saved; Pastor Bill Longmore credits helmet saving his life after bike accident with deer sends him spinning on Brodrecht Road


There is a story which circulates in newspaper circles involving a crusty old editor and a cub reporter. The editor says, “Dog bites man isn’t news. Man bites dog is news.”

This story came to mind after my sister-in-law, Ruth Jackson, shared that she heard a page to Elizabeth Ambulance on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 6:54 a.m., to the area of Brodrecht and Longhollow roads for an incident involving a deer hitting a bicyclist, four minutes after the actual accident.

Having heard of so many car hits deer incidents through the years, I thought deer hits biker might be on par with man bites dog.

Ruth, God bless her soul, was worried that biker might be me and had thought of calling Sarah to learn of my whereabouts.

I immediately thought of Bill Longmore, pastor of Crossroads Community Church, because he’s always bike riding around and beyond The Galena Territory in the early morning hours.

Bill’s wife, Katie, confirmed my fears. He was in Midwest Medical Center’s emergency room after the encounter.

She wrote, “He has a concussion and bruising, but nothing else! God is so good.” Yes!

Later that day, Bill walked out of the emergency room on his own two feet.

He’s a lucky guy. Here’s how.

One of Bill’s passions is bike riding. He rides nearly every day, early in the morning, logging 9,500 miles this year alone. His rides aren’t of the 10-mile variety. They are 30, 40, 50 miles or more. Last year he rode from his home in The Galena Territory to the Quad Cities and back–in one day.

On this chilly Saturday morning wearing layer upon layer to stay warm, he started his initial 10-mile loop that took him down Brodrecht Road. It’s a pretty good hill he goes down. He checked his Garmin bike computer to monitor the temperature and his speed: 34 degrees and 26 miles per hour.

He then looked up and there–right in front of him–were three deer.

“I could hear their hooves on the pavement,” Bill recalls.

And, what did he say when he saw the deer? A bit sheepishly he said, “Although I’m a minister, I think I said, ‘Oh shit.’”

I would have said the same thing or worse. Probably most of you would, as well. Great choice of words, Bill.

Bill avoided the first deer. He hit the second, and the third sideswiped him.

He went flipping over the front of his bike. The headlight flew to one side. Water bottles flew off the bike. The front tire broke completely off his beloved Trek Emonda SLR carbon framed bike, a gift from a friend, and made its way to a ditch, 50 feet away. The bike is beyond repair.

It is Bill’s helmet which shows just how lucky he is. One of the deer’s antlers connected with the helmet, leaving a puncture mark. When he hit the ground, the helmet popped off and slid another 100 feet down the road.

Before taking this ride, Bill purposefully decided to wear his warmer winter helmet. With any other kind of helmet, the deer antler might have punctured his head.

Deer fur on the helmet proved to be a telltale sign of the adventure.

Bill’s Garmin bike computer connects to his cell phone. It’s programmed to sense a sudden or violent stop and then call an emergency contact, which is his wife, and then 911.

Bill doesn’t recall whether he passed out or not, but he does remember talking to Katie about his situation and then 911 dispatch at the Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Office. He was able to share what happened thanks to the wireless bone conduction headphones he wears.

Katie assembled the family and dashed to Bill’s aid 1/10th of a mile shy of Longhollow Road. Galena Territory Security and then Elizabeth Ambulance showed up.

“I couldn’t feel anything,” he remembers. “I thought I was paralyzed.”

How scared Bill must have been lying there in the middle of Brodrecht Road thinking he was paralyzed. His back hurt and he couldn’t take a deep breath. It turns out that this was all his body’s shock response.

Emergency personnel called for a helicopter, but then called it off and decided to take Bill to Midwest Medical Center’s emergency room.

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There, Dr. Thomas Oh discovered that Bill’s left lung had collapsed and wanted to insert a chest tube.

“No! No! No!” Bill pleaded. During military service he’d seen too many soldiers react to having this procedure. He wanted nothing of it.

Dr. Oh decided on a CAT scan.

Katie sent out a prayer request to the congregation. Responses, “We’re praying! Were praying! We’re praying!” came flooding back.

The CAT scan showed that the lung wasn’t collapsed. Bill says it’s a miracle.

In all, Bill sustained compression fractures where his ribs meet his spine, some pooling of blood in his hips and a bad concussion. No surgery was needed.

The helmet sustained the only scratches.

Several days after his accident Bill said he “felt as though I’ve been hit by a deer.” He said it with a smile. He could still “feel every muscle in his body,” his back still hurt a bit and there was a certain sense of fogginess in his thinking process due to the concussion.

This incident, which, coincidently, happened a couple days after the 15th anniversary of his nasty truck accident, shares a lesson and reminder for all of us.

The first: Always wear a helmet when biking.

“Dr. Oh said if I wasn’t wearing a helmet I’d be dead,” Bill says matter of factly. “The common conception is that wearing a helmet isn’t cool or doesn’t work. You’re dumb if you don’t wear a helmet. They really do save lives although you might look ridiculous.”

Bill says his children, who don’t like wearing helmets, are now saying they will wear their helmets in the future.

There’s nothing ridiculous about wearing a helmet. You never know what might happen or when/where you might fall. We don’t always control our destiny.

The reminder is of the wonderful support system we all have when things don’t go as planned.

“I’d be in big trouble without the support of my family jumping into it and my church. They have supported me for everything. I’d be in big trouble without them,” he shares.

Then, there’s dispatch, Galena Territory Security, Elizabeth Ambulance and Midwest Medical Center.

“They responded so quickly. They provided the ultimate care, premium care. I don’t have words to express how professional and caring they were for me and that the best decisions were being made.”

Bill has one regret. Wearing $900 worth of biking clothing including a $400 coat, he pleaded with emergency personnel: “Don’t cut my clothing off!”

They did. He understands why, but it still hurts–so to speak.

Bill expected to be back to work by midweek. Within a couple of weeks he hopes to be back on a bike, if his ribs heal properly.

And what future does that life-saving helmet have?

Part of him wants to put it “back on,” but best practice is to never use a helmet involved in the crash because of potential damage from the crash.

What Bill doesn’t need is this advice, “Watch out for deer!” However, he’s getting a lot of that advice now.

Bill must be one special person, because what’s more special than hitting a deer and being hit by a deer all on one ride? How many others have this shared experience?

Now about that man biting a dog...

by P. Carter Newton, publisher