Motorcycle crash victim says gear saved his life

"All the gear, all the time." This is a motto that Jim and Jaque Rasmussen live by when riding their motorcycles. And it was Jim's gear that helped save his life. It was late in the afternoon on Friday, July 29. Jim took off from their home in Mi...

This is what Jim Rasmussen's Can Am motorcycle looked like after the crash. (Contributed)
This is what Jim Rasmussen's Can Am motorcycle looked like after the crash. (Contributed)

"All the gear, all the time."

This is a motto that Jim and Jaque Rasmussen live by when riding their motorcycles. And it was Jim's gear that helped save his life.

It was late in the afternoon on Friday, July 29. Jim took off from their home in Miltona and headed down Minnesota Highway 29 on his motorcycle. He was heading to Glenwood.

"All the further I got was to Jim and Judy's (at the intersection of County Road 5)," said the 74-year-old. "A vehicle pulled out and I came to an abrupt halt. I hit the front of the car and apparently, I went flying."

When Kyle Grinager heard his pager go off alerting him to a motorcycle crash, he immediately started thinking about the scene and what he could possibly roll up on.


"I was thinking this was going to be a bad, ugly deal," said Grinager, the Miltona Fire Department assistant chief and a first responder. "I was expecting to see a mangled, bloody mess."

However, Grinager was in for a surprise.

The scene was not at all like the images he had pictured in his mind.

"I walked up to him (Rasmussen) lying on the ground and he was talking," he said. "He was telling us he was OK. There was no blood. I thought, this just isn't right."

Grinager said it took him a few minutes to survey the scene and then he saw a tethered cord and asked Rasmussen what it was. Rasmussen told him it was his vest - a Helite airbag vest. When Rasmussen was thrown, a cord tethered to the Can Am motorcycle instantly inflated air pockets in the vest, breaking his fall, stabilizing his neck and head, which was covered by a helmet.

"It was crazy. After a complete T-bone crash and being thrown 12 to 15 feet in the air, I thought there was no way he could have survived," Grinager said, adding that the survival rate of that kind of crash is extremely low.

Jim admitted he really doesn't remember exactly what happened. All he knows is that a car pulled out, he hit his brakes and then the next thing he remembers, there were faces from the Miltona First Responders staring down at him.

Shortly after he was on scene, Grinager said he called into the dispatch center and canceled the LifeLink helicopter, which had previously been called to the scene. He said the dispatcher had him repeat what he had said because in the majority of motorcycle crashes that have been similar, LifeLink is always used.


"I told them we didn't need it, that the guy was OK. There was no evidence of any serious injury," Grinager said. "It was seriously crazy. Unbelievable."

Jim was riding his Can Am motorcycle, which he purchased last fall after he traded in his BMW motorcycle. The Can Am, with its two front wheels and one back wheel, was more stable for the aging motorcyclist, he said.

Although the motorcycle has changed, the amount of gear Rasmussen wears has not. Whenever they ride, the Rasmussens are fully outfitted in specific motorcycle gear including helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and boots that Jim says "won't fall off." The pants and jackets are made of special material that they noted is like Kevlar. It is a breathable material, kind of stiff in nature, that is designed specifically for motorcyclists. It is a heavier material than the normal leather gear associated with most motorcycle riders.

Last year, there was an addition to the Rasmussens' riding attire.

While at the national BMW rally, the Rasmussens purchased the Helite airbag vests - one for each of them. Jim thought they were a bit expensive, but his wife thought they were the best invention.

The retired pharmacist and his retired emergency room nurse wife have been riding motorcycles for close to 40 years. They have logged about 400,000 miles. Jaque noted they have ridden to Mexico, Michigan, California, New York, Vermont, Canada and numerous other places - all without any incidents.

After the crash, both Jim and Jaque really believe in the worth of their gear. "We have always had gear on," said Jim. "It's hideously expensive, but definitely worth it."

Jim said that although he did have to spend the night in the hospital, he basically "walked away" from the crash. Something he believes wouldn't have happened if he wasn't wearing the protective clothing. He did end up with a broken wrist and a concussion. He has to have follow-up appointments with a neurologist.


Jaque said that is nothing compared to what it could have been. "He didn't get a broken neck. He didn't break his back. He's not paralyzed. He's not dead."

It's a very different outcome than most motorcycle accidents Grinager has seen. Since joining the Miltona Fire Department and becoming a first responder in 2009, Grinager has been called to about six or seven motorcycle crashes.

"That crash was eye-opening," said Grinager, who said he would highly recommend all motorcyclists to consider wearing the type of gear Rasmussen was wearing. "It's definitely worth it."

As for his gear, Jim said the back of his helmet was slightly crushed/scratched and there were two very small scrapes/marks on his clothing - one on his pants and one on his vest pocket. His Can Am motorcycle, however, was totaled. As for when he is getting a new one, Jim isn't so sure.

He hasn't been on a motorcycle since the accident.

"I might be done," he said. "But who knows. Never say never, I guess."


The Helite vest provides a rigid neck brace, as well as firm support to the spine and back, chest, rib and kidneys and also provides hip and pelvic protection. The vest can be tethered to the handlebars of a motorcycle. Upon activation, a spring-loaded piston pierces the CO2 cartridge located on the front of the vest and rapidly inflates the airbag around the neck and body. The air chambers are designed to stabilize the neck, spine and torso, reducing the impact to vital organs. Once the vest is deployed, it stays inflated for about 15-20 seconds. It will then deflate on its own. Once the used CO2 cartridge is replaced with a new one, the vest is ready to be used again.


Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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