2013-01-02 / Community
Boy’s quick action helps avert tragedy
On Dec. 17, Beau and Norman of Agoura Hills rode their bikes to Cheeseboro Trail and entered the path off of Smoke Tree Avenue in Oak Park. The route became a little more treacherous than expected.
About a mile and a half into the ride the bikers approached a hill. Beau rode safely down the hill but, when Norman followed, he and his bicycle flipped.
“I saw him flip,” Beau said. “He landed on his head—I saw his head go back, he rolled a little bit. It was crazy.”
Beau ran to help Norman and found the 53-year-old with a badly torn ear and unable to move from the waist down.
“I thought I could shake it off and sit up,” Norman said from his hospital room at the Los Robles Rebab Center in Westlake Village on Dec. 26. “I asked Beau to get help.”
Before Beau exited the canyon, he asked Norman to tell him how many fingers he was holding up. After Norman answered correctly, Beau used his phone to call his mother, Susan Casserly.
“She picked up on the last ring,” Beau said, adding that he urged his mother to call 911.
The rescue effort hit a snag. Beau had told his mother they entered the trail on Smoke Tree, but there are two Smoke Tree entrances and Casserly and the paramedics went to the wrong trailhead.
“I was screaming,” Casserly said. “I couldn’t find them.”
Beau called his mother again.
“I hung up and put the phone on Joe’s belly and ran down about 1.5 miles to the front (of the trail),” Beau said. “There was nothing there, so I started to run to houses.”
He found a man with a phone, which he borrowed to call his mother again. A paramedic was then able to locate the scene of the accident.
Beau was relieved when he saw the ambulance and was able to wave it down. The terrain was so rough that Norman had to be taken out of the canyon by helicopter.
“I couldn’t feel from my waist down,” Norman said. “I felt like my legs were in the air.”
Casserly said her fiance’s ear was nearly hanging off his head, and she was worried that he had severed his spinal cord, which would have meant paralysis.
Norman was lucky. A plastic surgeon reattached his ear with 80 stitches, and while two vertebrae were fractured, he will recover from the injury and walk again.
Norman also broke three ribs and his hand.
“The beautiful part of the story is within hours he started moving his feet,” Casserly said. “Everybody thought he severed his spinal cord. He fractured the outside of his spine, but his cord was not injured.”
On Christmas Day, Norman took his first 10 steps since the accident.
Norman is expected to make a full recovery and will be out of the hospital within several weeks.
He said his bike helmet was smashed into 20 pieces.
“The helmet came apart, but it did its job—I didn’t get a concussion.”
Norman said he and Beau had done some riding on the street but had only recently started mountain biking together.
“We’ve really bonded in an incredible way,” Norman said.
Casserly called her son a hero for his quick thinking.
After the accident, Beau used a school project to express how he feels about Norman.
A fifth-grade student at Willow Elementary School in Agoura Hills, Beau was supposed to write a poem about the character Edmund in the novel, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” but was given permission to write instead about Norman, whom he described as “faithful, brave, loving and kind.”
“I don’t think I’m the hero,” Beau said. “I think Joe is. I think he’s the bravest man I know. He didn’t even cry.”
But Norman, an assistant operations manager for a Santa Monica shopping mall, broke down when he spoke about Beau’s courage in getting help.
“You have your own children, and they’re very special to you,” Norman said. “Then you meet kids throughout your life that are special. Then you meet some that you don’t know what you’d do without them.”
Norman said he made a bad mistake in judgment on the bike ride, one that he will always regret. He said he overestimated his ability to ride down a particularly difficult hill.
“As an adult, I should have been more responsible,” Norman said. “I’m so grateful it was me who got banged up and not Beau. I was the adult and should have said ‘no’ (to that hill).”
But the accident hasn’t diminished the pair’s desire to mountain bike again.
“You don’t quit because you get hurt—you just choose to do things differently,” Norman said.