Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dummy of the day

From the December 6th, Times Picayune


It was one of the strangest accidents I've responded to in my 37 years on the New Orleans Police Department," said Lt. Melvin Howard, assistant commander of the Traffic Division.

The man lost control of his 650 cc BMW motorcycle and struck a curb as he headed west in the 5900 block of Almonaster Avenue about 1:15 p.m., police said. The impact threw the driver across the median and into the eastbound lanes where he came to rest, his yellow helmet left in the westbound lanes as was his motorcycle, police and a witness said.

He was taken to a local hospital in "very critical" condition, police said.

The lone witness to the accident, Matt Rutan, said the motorcyclist sped past his truck as he was driving back from the landfill.

"At first I thought it was a piece of rope dragging behind the motorcycle," Rutan said, referring to what later turned out to be a 5-foot canebrake rattlesnake secured by twine to the motorcycle.

The motorcycle got at most a half-mile ahead of Rutan, he said, when he saw the cyclist "lift up a little and twist around in his seat like he was attending to something on the back of his bike."

In doing so, the driver failed to negotiate a right-hand curve in the road and struck what Rutan judged to be an eight-inch concrete curb. The driver was ejected from the motorcycle and came to rest about 150 feet down the road, on the opposite side of a grassy median, Rutan said. He said the motorcycle flipped many times and ended up in the westbound lanes more than 200 feet down the road.

Rutan stopped his truck and called 911 as he ran to the driver and saw he was apparently unconscious, he said.

An ambulance responded within 10 minutes, he said.

Rutan discovered that what he had thought was a rope was really a snake "loosely tied by a rough kind of twine" to the back of the motorcycle.

Although Rutan said the snake definitely moved its body a number of times before police arrived, one officer said he believed the movement may have been due to post-mortem reflexes. The canebrake rattlesnake had had its rattle apparently cut off before the accident, an officer said. It appeared to have had its fangs removed as well.

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