‘It was instant paralysis’: woman recalls ATV accident
Maranda Lanouette vividly remembers the moment she broke her spine.
In June 2011, the 30-year-old fell off the back of the all-terrain vehicle her husband was driving.
"It was just sitting right here where it says no passenger," she said while pointing to the back portion of the quad. "Once I fell I immediately knew I wasn't going to get up. It was instant paralysis." she said.
Lanouette and her husband were out riding with friends near Ste. Anne. Lanouette said she looked back to check on the group and at the same time the quad hit something on the trail.
"My helmet, I guess, wasn't on properly, I didn't tie it properly, I maybe didn't size it properly and my helmet broke my neck."
STARS Air Ambulance was dispatched to her location. The helicopter was only in Manitoba to help with forest fire relief - in 2011 Manitoba didn’t have its own base.
Lanouette credits the STARS crew with her survival. "I owe them my life. My kids owe them, my family. We will forever,” she added.
Flight paramedic Troy Pauls said Wednesday accidents like Lanouette's are still happening too often across the province. Last year, STARS was called to 18 ATV related calls in Manitoba. This year, they have already responded to six.
"ATV crashes make up a significant portion of the trauma calls that we do in the summer,” Pauls said. “We anticipate, having done six already, that there will be significantly more this year."
STARS reminds riders of these safety tips before hitting the trails:
• Never operate an ATV without proper instruction.
• Use antenna flags in hilly areas and wear bright clothing to be more visible.
• Wear protective clothing – always wear an approved motorcycle helmet, eye protection, ankle high boots, long pants and long-sleeved shirt or jacket.
• Use maps and a compass if you are riding in an unfamiliar area.
• Carry a first-aid pack and vehicle-repair kit with you.
• Never allow youth under the age of 16 to ride adult sized ATV’s or without adult supervision.
• Children need to be observed carefully, because not all children have the strength, size, skills or judgment needed to operate an ATV safely.
• Always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.
• Never follow directly behind another rider, because this restricts your visibility.
• Never carry a passenger on an ATV. Carrying a passenger may upset the balance of the ATV and may cause it to go out of control.
• Never consume alcohol or drugs before or while operating an ATV.
Five years after her crash, Lanouette is a busy mother of two boys who works and attends school.
"But I have challenges. I am in a wheel chair forever and my hands don't work."
Despite those struggles, Lanouette is still active and back in the driver’s seat.
She has a custom-fitted side-by-side ATV and hopes her story inspires other riders to wear the right safety gear, especially a properly fitted helmet.
"You think they're all the same and they all do the same thing, but it's so important to tie it properly, size it, make sure it fits, make sure it's on."
This summer, she plans to ride the trail she fell on and move past the crash for good.
In 2015, STARS responded to 107 ATV related calls from all six bases in Canada.