On the Cold Smoke snowmobile drag races weekend last month, one rider didn’t make it to the start line.
Dakota Woods, 19, was taking a warm-up run on the practise track beside the main drag strip. He squeezed the throttle-lever hard on his Rev 800. The sled responded just like the racers expect, but it got hung-up on a trench in the snow.
Nobody saw the accident happen, but Dakota and his sled were launched off the track, and judging by his injuries, Dakota hit a tree with a life-threatening impact.
He was immediately evacuated by air-ambulance plane to Vancouver where he remained in a coma for six days.
“I remember hitting a bad trench,” said Dakota. “I tried pulling myself out of it. I remember launching off, but I don’t remember anything after that.”
“I just remember waking up in Vancouver.”
At Vancouver General Hospital he underwent surgery to repair a litany of physical damage.
Rob Woods, Dakota’s father, described the physical trauma.
“A fractured shoulder, four broken ribs, a fractured hip, surgery to pin fingers together in his hand, four fractured disks and one broken disk in his back, a punctured lung, and a lacerated spleen,” Rob said. “I don’t think I’m missing anything.”
The rods and screws in Dakota’s back will stay there for life, but he’ll return to Vancouver in a month to have hardware in his left hand removed. In June, he’ll go back to have his left shoulder re-examined.
“Once the muscle has started to heal in his shoulder, he’ll be tested for nerve damage,” Rob said.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Dakota. “I can walk around. I just can’t jump or run.”
This was Dakota’s first year of racing on the snow, although he had two years of pavement racing under his belt already.
“I’ll still race probably, just not for a couple of years till I’m healed up properly,” he said.
As for many in Burns Lake, racing and sledding are a big part of Dakota’s life. Rob used to race, and he’s able to maintain a philosophical attitude towards his son’s accident.
Rob said that it was tough, as a father, to see Dakota go through an experience like that. But he understands the risks involved.
“It’s something you accept when you get on a machine to race,” Rob said. “You’re going to crash.”
“You don’t expect it to be life-threatening,” Rob added. “But it all worked out pretty well.”
“He’s happy. He’s happy to be alive,” Rob said. “He’s stiff and sore and broken, but time will heal.”