It was a quiet, ordinary Sunday evening on September 17, when Maverick Marshall, 33, of Ditidaht, hopped on his bicycle after visiting The Bread of Life on Third Avenue in Port Alberni. It was something the experienced cyclist had done many times before.
But something went wrong barely two blocks away as Marshall headed down the Third Avenue hill. According to a family member, he somehow lost control of his bike and careened over his handlebars. He struck a utility pole headfirst. He wasn’t wearing a safety helmet.
“Our cousin and his wife happened to be driving by right after it happened and they were able to stay with him the whole time,” Jodie Eaton told Ha-Shilth-Sa.
She said her cousin was not conscious.
“The impact was so severe, the trauma, he died almost instantly,” she added.
Eaton shared that Marshall had been homeless for about four months and would access free services, like the food at Bread of Life and other services in the Third and Fourth Avenue neighborhood. It was about 10:00 in the evening when he left the Bread of Life.
Eaton grew up with her cousins, learning to ride bicycles from a young age.
“We grew up always being told to wear our helmets, elbow and knee pads, we learned about safety, and so it was quite the shock when we found out what happened to him,” said Eaton.
As the family gathered to grieve their sudden loss, visitors poured in to offer support and condolences. Two of those visitors were from Haahuupayak, the Tseshaht school Maverick attended as a child.
Principal Nancy Logan and Nuu-chah-nulth Studies Assistant Trevor Little vowed to the family that they would make bicycle safety a priority with Haahuupayak students.
According to Logan, the Marshall family wanted Haahuupayak to use their family name and to share the importance of safety and wearing bicycle helmets with the students.
“We shared the Marshall family message with all the Haahuupayak students and also with the families looking for donations of helmets for the students,” said Logan.
At a recent Haahupayak open house the message was shared again and a table was set up for donated helmets.
“We were able to share about 15 helmets with students that needed them,” said Logan.
“We let students know that we value the safety of all our students,” she added. “All students needed to be wearing a helmet on school grounds and [we] greatly encourage students to value their own safety and wear helmets when riding bikes, scooters or skateboards at all times.”
Trevor Little has connected with the local RCMP. The police will be coming to the school later in October for the Bike Rodeo program, according to Principal Logan. That is a bicycle safety program usually held ahead of Halloween.
According to ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia), cyclists are required by law to wear helmets on BC highways.
“Wearing an approved bicycle helmet that meets safety standards is the law in B.C. and you could be fined for not wearing one,” ICBC states on their website.
According to the RCMP, cyclists must obey the same rules of the road as other drivers.
The BC Motor Vehicle Act and Regulations state operators of cycles have the same rights and duties as a driver of a motor vehicle. In addition, cyclists must wear helmets or they can be fined $29. Parents of minor children under the age of 16 may be fined the same amount for allowing their children to ride without helmets.
The RCMP say that the use of approved helmets
- Reduces the risk of serious head injury by 60 per cent
- Reduces the risk of traumatic brain injury by 53 per cent
- Reduces the risk of fatality or serious injury by 34 per cent
- Reduces the risk of facial injury by 23 per cent
“It’s not something everyone thinks of – I mean, we grew up riding bikes and I think we’re good at it, but we all think that it won’t happen to me,” said Eaton. “Mav loved riding bikes, but just one small turn of the wheel and it can happen.”
Marshall’s aunts and cousins say they are still hurting and upset, according to Eaton.
“We want to raise awareness of safe bicycle use for all ages,” said Eaton. “And safe practices start young, so we are grateful Hhk (Haahuupayuk) is doing the helmet drive because what happened was preventable. A helmet would have made a difference.”
Maverick Marshall, age 33, leaves behind four children, ages 3 to 11 years.
Haahuupayak school is accepting donations of approved bicycle helmets at 6000 Santu Drive, Port Alberni, BC.