Battered cyclist relives terror
Screaming, blood and panic. That is what Maxyna Cottam remembers of the moments after she and five of her friends crashed into the side of a car while cycling on a rural Waikato road on Tuesday.
"Two of them were screaming," she told the Times, "and the one that cut her face had blood everywhere, so it was kind of freaky."
Maxyna, 17, a member of the Waikato Diocesan School for Girls' Senior A cycling team, was discharged from Waikato Hospital late on Tuesday night with bruising to her body and damage to ligaments in her left knee.
She was recovering in a knee brace and on crutches yesterday when she spoke to the Times about the crash, the injuries her friends suffered and her desire to get straight back on her bike.
And her school was vowing to review its cycling safety policy after the accident.
Principal Vicky McLennan said she was confident that the girls involved were abiding by the school's "strict" cycling rules.
But the crash had forced the school to discuss extra road safety measures.
"We are hugely conscious of the risks of cycling. It's probably one of the most dangerous sports potentially, because of that traffic factor," Mrs McLennan said.
"In terms of, does it make us question our safety practices? Of course. Every time anything ever happens it makes us question and we continually question.
"We are already today talking about how to do it better if it's possible to do it better and we will certainly have a very thorough de-brief with all of the parties at the table at once."
She said the area where the crash happened was commonly used by schools for training, and the roads were deemed to be low risk.
"In fact, I think there was another school only hundreds of metres away from our girls."
The team had been training on a popular route north of Hamilton in preparation for the national school road cycling champs at the end of the month.
Sisters Maggie and Brigitte Allan, aged 17 and 15, Loren Mathis, Madison Farrant, both 17, and coach Pip Sutton, who was celebrating her 21st birthday, were with Maxyna.
"We were all in a line," she said. "We were doing around 35 to 45 kilometres an hour and we hit one of the intersections."
A Toyota Estima people mover was seen approaching the intersection of Lake and Dawson roads, near Taupiri, about 4.25pm.
It slowed down and the girls thought the driver had seen them, but he continued past the give way sign and the six riders ploughed into the side door.
"There was no time for us to stop or anything," Maxyna said.
Ms Sutton broke her wrist and another girl's braces ripped inside her mouth.
"One of the girl's bike glasses cut her eyebrow, which she had to get stitches on, and her nose."
She said the driver stopped, but appeared to be in shock.
"He got out and started asking if we're OK, but I think he hesitated a bit and then he started helping us.
"He was pretty good, he seemed sorry."
The driver's wife, who did not give a name, yesterday said her husband, aged in his early 50s, had been "absolutely numb" since the accident.
"He is one of the nicest men and he wouldn't harm a hair on anybody's head and for him it's really bad because he's a dad himself."
Her husband told her that he did not see the cyclists.
"He is quite aware that there are people that train there often so he's extra vigilant when it comes to the cyclists over there.
"Because we cycle ourselves with our children we are aware of the dangers that are there for cyclists."
Waikato District road policing manager, Inspector Marcus Lynam, said the crash was still under investigation, but initial indications were that the driver of the Toyota failed to give way.
If the driver was found to be at fault it was likely that he would face charges, Mr Lynam said.
"At this stage there's no fault on behalf of the cyclists. They were all riding as a group; they had reflective vests on."
Hamilton City Cycling Club president Steven Pawley said the area where the accident happened was popular with cyclists.
"That's one of our main Thursday night race circuits that we use. It's pretty quiet, pretty safe, good visibility from all directions.
"I would just say whoever was driving was probably looking for cars and not looking for cyclists."
Despite the shock of the crash, Maxyna said she was eager to get back to training for the national champs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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