MARYVILLE (WATE) – A Louisiana man describes his nearly 30-hour wait for help after a motorcycle crash as terrifying, lonely and life-changing.
The crash happened the morning of October 15 on the stretch of U.S. Highway 129 known as “The Dragon.” Tennessee Highway Patrol says motorcyclist Philip Polito from Missouri was killed when he slowed down and was hit from behind by his friend Kevin Diepenbrock’s bike.
Both men went off the road and down a hill. Polito did not survive and it took more than a day for the two to finally be found by a passerby.
Kevin Diepenbrock says he is feeling stronger each day and taking in each small victory. He has 12 broken ribs and a total of 17 breaks, some of which are hairline fractures on his spine, two punctured lungs, bruises and scratches. He’s very thankful to be alive.
“It’s just a lot to go through, but forever thankful we are where we are,” said his wife Courtney Diepenbrock.
Kevin Diepenbrock, injured and helpless, recorded cell phone videos for his loved ones, not knowing if he’d ever see them again.
“The whole day went by and hundreds and hundreds of bikes had gone by. And they sound like they’re 50 feet away from you and there’s just nothing that you can do,” he said.
With very little strength, he tried calling out, dialing 911 and sending text messages. He even updated Facebook, all to no avail.
“A lot of things can go through your mind in 30 hours,” said Kevin Diepenbrock.
It got a lot darker and Kevin Diepenbrock says he lost all hope. He struggled with finding water and prayed he and his friend would be found, but it didn’t happen until 30 hours later. That’s when he got a glimpse of hope.
“For somebody to hear me yelling out, is truly divine intervention,” he said.
Kevin Diepenbrock’s rescuer says the experience taught him a valuable lesson.
“There is no way I was going to leave him there. I would stay with him overnight if that is what it took,” said Johnston.
Josh Johnston frequently rides The Dragon, but a trip two weekends ago was out of the ordinary.
“A guy and a lady pull up on a bike and said they heard somebody hollering,” he said.
Kevin Diebenbrock was immobile just 100 feet from the highway. Johnston looked down the ravine to see if he could find anyone and saw that Diepenbrock wasn’t alone.
“I see another guy down there, but he was just looking at me with this blank stare. He wasn’t saying anything or moving,” Johnston said.
Johnston then started the dangerous climb down to help.
“On his face, it was apparent he was ready to give up,” Johnston said.
It was hard for rescuers to get there and there was no cell service. Johnston’s friend, still on the highway, called Blount County rescue crews to pull Diepenbrock out.
“Just in a flight or fight mode. Only thing I could think of was get him out of there no matter what,” said Johnston.
It’s still unbelievably hard for Diepenbrock to know his close friend Philip Polito didn’t make it.
“Never forget to tell people you love them. That’s all I could think about when I was down there was that I never, you never say that enough. You never spend enough time with your family, you parents, enough time with people that are close to you,” said Kevin Diepenbrock.
Johnston, happy that Diepenbrock made it out alive, says he learned an important lesson.
“I could have been him, you know.”
He says he will now always wear a 120 decibel whistle when he rides.
“Maybe this will get me help faster than Kevin did,” he said.
The whistle Johnston and his friends are now wearing costs only $5, a small expense for something that could greatly hep in this situation. They can be purchased online.
Johnston has visited Diepenbrock in the hospital. He hopes to be out of the hospital in the next few days and the family is asking for prayers.