A struggle for survival by motorcycle enthusiast Kevin Diepenbrock who laid injured for thirty hours at the base of a steep hill along the famous Dragons Tail was reported yesterday by the Knoxville News Sentinel.
It begins with a crash on October 15th when Diepenbrock collided with a friend a co-worker, Phil Polito who were riding Route 129 together. Better known as ‘The Tail of the Dragon’, this stretch of road is located in Deals Gap, a mountain pass along the North Carolina–Tennessee state line, bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The popular and internationally famous destination for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts because of an 11-mile stretch that has a total of 318 curves.
It was while riding this stretch of road the pair tumbled more than 100 feet down a rocky embankment after their motorcycles collided. Diepenbrock survived the crash, but his friend did not. The 41-year-old Diepenbrock laid at the base of an embankment out of sight of the road and unable to move suffering two punctured lungs, 17 breaks in 12 ribs, and multiple spinal fractures.
A familiar statue to those who've ridden the Tail of the Dragon
Diepenbrock attempted to call and text family and friends as well as post messages of help on Facebook, but he had no cellphone service. He also shouted at passing vehicles but the cars and motorcycles didn’t seem to hear him.
As night fell, the fallen rider’s thirst grew and even though a creek was only 10 feet away, Diepenbrock couldn’t pull his 6-foot-4-inch, 350-pound frame to the water. Throughout his ordeal he recorded videos to his wife and parents explaining what had happened and said what he thought could be his final goodbyes.
After thirty hours he was finally heard by a couple who stopped near the embankment for a drink of water. After unsuccessfully searching for Diepenbrock, they rode to a nearby photography shop, 129 Photos, to get help and returned with an Alabama man named Joshua Johnson.
‘Johnson worked with the Blount County Rescue Squad and various emergency responders to load Diepenbrock on a back brace and pull him up roughly 105 feet of rocks and trees using ropes and pullies,’ writes the Knoxville News Sentinel, ‘Diepenbrock was "squeezed into the helicopter," he said, and was airlifted to the UT Medical Center, where he was initially listed in critical condition but has since recovered with the help of physical therapists.’
Local news station WBIR covered Kevin Diepenbrock reuniting with his rescuer when Johnson visited him at UT Medical Center.The full story on Diepenbrock can be found on Knoxville News Sentinel website and is certainly worth a read.
According to the website Tailofthedragon.com there have been four deaths in 2016 as of October 18th. The website has recorded deaths since 1995 with the number peaking in 2009 with a total of five.