Accident leaves awful thoughts behind

by Nathan Warner
Contributing writer

For Tom Ryan and his wife, Liz, this is one year they have much to be thankful for. On Oct. 9, the Ryans were driving their Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic north on Highway 169 through Princeton when the unthinkable happened.

Liz and Tom Ryan will be especially thankful on Thanksgiving.

“We were just south of Highway 95 when I felt something wasn’t right,” Tom recalls. “I tried to slow down as the motorcycle began to shudder and fishtail.”

Tom says he immediately knew something was wrong with the back tire — it had blown out.

As Tom wrestled to stay on the road, he slowly lost control of the motorcycle and it flipped on its side, throwing them both 15 feet onto the hard pavement of the highway. “We were driving at 65 mph before the tire blew out,” Tom added, “but I think I managed to slow down to 35 mph when I finally lost control and we hit the ground.”

Liz says she knew something was wrong before they were thrown.

“The last thing I remember was Tom saying, ‘We’re going to crash,’” she recalls, “and then I woke up in the emergency room.”

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Tom was taken to nearby Fairview Northland Medical Center in Princeton with a broken shoulder, while Liz had to be airlifted from the scene to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale with a fractured skull and broken ribs.

“We should be dead,” Liz nodded. “We’re both really lucky.”

Liz says she has no doubt Tom’s calm during the crisis helped save her life, adding that his reactions kept their injuries to a minimum.

“Neither of us was wearing a helmet,” Tom adds, “which makes it all that more remarkable we survived.”
The ride was going to be their last of the season before putting the bike in storage. “It was such a nice day,” Liz recalled, “and I suggested we go out for one more ride. Now I think it could have been our last day together.” It certainly was for the Harley, which was totaled in the crash.

Liz is the daughter of Maggie and Kevin Johnson, owners of Johnson’s Hardware Hank in Zimmerman. Liz and her husband help manage the store.

Liz isn’t sure she’ll get on a motorcycle again. “I should be dead,” she said, “and that changes your perspective a little.”

Both Tom and Liz are back to work at the hardware store, but Liz is still wearing a c-collar. A doctor appointment on Tuesday made her confident it would come off soon.

“We are certainly more thankful this Thanksgiving than we have been for many years,” Liz said with a smile. “And I think we can safely say we’re here for a reason. Now we have to figure out what that is.”