Racer recovering after motocross accident (Video)
Jan. 28, 2013 at 9:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 27, 2013 at 7:28 p.m.
Brennen Rutten had no idea he'd cap off a night of adrenaline-rushing motocross racing inside an emergency room with a nurse cutting an expensive safety chest brace from his body.
But, if he thinks about it now - some three weeks after an accident that stunned hundreds of spectators at the annual Outlaw Monster Truck Show - he figures it was just a matter of time, just like it is with athletes of any other sport.
The accident occurred on his second go-round during a long jump competition when he hit a 3-foot-tall dirt jump. Then, the back of his 1988 Honda 250R sports quad went above its front end, and he went flying over the modified handlebars.
In mid-air, he attempted to steer away from a wall of seated onlookers.
He doesn't recall the pain he felt when his vehicle, bouncing a second time from the 40-mph impact, came to rest on top of him, bruising his lungs, crushing his collar bone and busting his lip.
His friend, who has some paramedic expertise, rushed to his side and held him still.
Rutten was wide awake the whole time.
The tough-as-nails 24-year-old hails from Iowa, where he opted out of playing soccer as a kid for a more challenging family tradition - racing quads.
He comes home every night to his fiance, Erin Neumann, battered and bruised but smiling.
They both think it's kind of ironic that, out of everything, a 3-foot tall jump is what tripped him up, especially since he's scaled 147-foot-tall jumps with ease.
"He would've gotten on (the quad) the next day if he could," Neumann said, as Rutten, still adjusting to the steel plate in his shoulder and six pins surgeons left in his body, appreciated his arm's full range of motion.
She was in the crowd filming his daring escapade, as usual, but dropped the camera as soon as things went awry.
Rutten suspects the monster trucks' slow ascent and descent on the same jump throughout the night created some unsafe grooves by the time he met it.
"I've never actually broken any bones, so I guess I've been fortunate in that sense. I guess it was just my time," Rutten said.
Touting a card that boasts his professional expertise, he said racers know full well what they're getting into. That's why he signed a waiver beforehand absolving the show's organizer, Race Track Promotions, of any liability for his injuries.
He said he's spent thousands of dollars modifying his quad to be more durable and rider friendly with its netted foot peddles and wide tires.
He prepares for each event by running through a quick race track outside his rural Victoria home and builds up his cardiovascular stamina via a popular televised workout called "Insanity."
"A lot of people don't realize lifting (the vehicle) really wears you out," Rutten said. "It's like running down a football field with a 40-pound dumbbell in each arm four times."
But it's not a feeling he's willing to give up.
Already, he's weaning off his prescribed pain pills and looking forward to a training session in Splendora on Feb. 9.
"I can't just go to a show and sit in the stands," said Rutten, who is taking a temporary leave from his job as a mechanic for an oil field services company. "It's kind of something that's just in your blood."
The Texas Department of Insurance does not regulate monster truck shows, said spokesman Jerry Hagins.
But the city of Victoria sets up individualized contracts that would stipulate a whole gamut of rules companies interested in renting out the community center must adhere to.
Victoria Parks and Recreation Director Doug Cochran said that contract typically does not mandate those companies carry liability insurance, nor does it say EMS must be on-site, the latter of which Race Track Promotions voluntarily provided.
Cochran said his staff works on a case-by-case basis to arrange the space in a way that ensures safety for about 1,400 people the building can hold.
He said Race Track Promotions has been a good customer these past four years.
"Now, we're not experts in monster truck shows. We know that we don't want people sitting underneath where the trucks are jumping. That's kind of given," Cochran said. "For a lot of these events, we depend on the people who operate them to have some knowledge as to what is safe and what is not safe."
The Brett Downey Foundation, a motocross safety nonprofit, recommended on its website that organizers fence and water the track. It also suggested there be caution flaggers and that no one under the age of 18 be allowed in the area during practice or competition.
Steve Quercio, the owner of Race Track Promotions, said he tried to bring fun, family entertainment to the Crossroads. He put out a call to local racers, who he said were enthusiastic to compete for cash prizes.
He said the accident is the first they've had in six months.
"At least they're doing it in a confined area with proper medical people there to be able to take care of things immediately," he said. "Had he done this out in the desert or something, he could've been laying there for hours."
Carl Purvis, a spokesperson with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, said the federal government's concerns now do not apply to ATVs used for racing or stunts.
Most ATV manufacturers voluntarily comply with safety standards the CPSC has honed throughout the years. Three-wheeled ATVs were banned in 2009 after there appeared to be a stability problem with them, he said.
Rutten owns and was riding a quad with four wheels on the day of the accident.
"As a matter of fact, I would have to say, 'Please don't try to emulate what he does, unless you go out and get the same type of training he does,'" Purvis said.
In 2010, there were an estimated 115,000 ATV-related injuries, in which someone was hospitalized. There were also a reported 317 ATV-related deaths, according to ATVSafety.gov. That number doesn't distinguish between whether the vehicle was being used as the manufacturer intended at the time.