Robert Boutin remembers the “gorgeous” morning of May 25, admiring his 2015 Harley-Davidson and snapping a photo on his cellphone.
He also remembers his wife, Tailer, 22, telling him “I love you” from their Deer Park porch, moments before he hopped on his bike to head to work.
The next thing the Army veteran recalls is waking up in the hospital after a weeklong induced coma. He learned from his wife and mother about his collision about a mile from home, with the driver of the car that hit him leaving the scene.
“I survived Afghanistan with minimal injuries to come home to America to be almost killed,” said Boutin, 29, a construction manager with a Manhattan-based real estate company.
It’s just “surreal,” he said — to have been “in combat just about every day” as an infantryman in 2012 and to come home to be struck down.
He returned home June 18 in a wheelchair, on the mend from a fractured pelvis, collar bone, tail bone and left wrist. At the hospital, he also underwent reconstructive surgery for his face.
“I’m still in shock,” he said, that “I somehow made it through this.”
The accident happened about 8 a.m. in Wyandanch, Suffolk County police said.
A maroon-colored sedan heading east on Long Island Avenue made a U-turn at the intersection of South 19th Street, directly in front of Boutin’s Harley, which was heading west on Long Island Avenue, said Sgt. Kenneth McHugh, of the First Precinct crime section.
The Harley, which was not traveling at excessive speed, struck the sedan, believed to be a 2006 to 2009 Toyota Corolla, McHugh said.
He said the sedan’s driver sped away in the vehicle, which is believed to have “substantial damage to the passenger side fender and front grille.”
Although the U-turn was not illegal, the sedan’s driver failed to yield the right-of-way to the motorcycle and left the scene of an accident with injuries, he said.
Boutin, who was wearing a helmet and says he’s been riding two-wheelers — dirt bikes early on, and later motorcycles — for about 20 years, was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip.
Once he recovers, Boutin vows to never ride “a motorcycle here ever again.” He points to his sense that many Long Island motorists appear to be less mindful or caring of others who are sharing the roads as well as to several other crashes that have recently made headlines.
At least four motorcyclists have died on Long Island since Boutin’s accident, according to reports, with one involving a motorcycle colliding with a vehicle making a left turn.
Boutin, a 2005 East Islip High School graduate, says his focus now is on recovery. He credits his Army training and experience with instilling in him the drive to “never quit.”
His wife left her clerical job with a West Hempstead law office to help with his care. Proud of how far he’s come, she says the experience has taught her how much in life can change “in a blink of an eye.”
As for the hit-and-run driver, Boutin says he wants the person responsible for his injuries “to be held accountable.”
Anyone who can help with identifying and finding that person can call, anonymously, Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 800-220-8477. There’s a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
TIPS FOR AVOIDING CRASHES
- Wear bright-colored clothing and a helmet that’s Department of Transportation compliant.
- Obey posted speed limits and always ride “smart and sober.”
- Opt for motorcycle models with antilock brakes, which can help maintain stability.
- Plan for a “cushion of space” around you, so you have time to react and space to maneuver.
For more information, visit: dmv.ny.gov/driver-training/motorcycle-manual-ride-within-your-abilities
- Keep an eye out for and safely share the road with motorcycles.
- Know that it can be hard to judge motorcyclists’ speed and timing to reach you, with crashes often occurring when a driver stops or turns in front of a cyclist.
- Know that motorcyclists may quickly change speed or lane position to avoid such surfaces as loose gravel, debris, grooves in the pavement.
- Allow for more distance when following them.
For more information, visit: dmv.ny.gov/about-dmv/chapter-11-sharing-road#the-mot and forcardrivers.com/quicktips.html
Sources: Governors Highway Safety Association, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles