Triathlete paralyzed in crash seeks to raise awareness about road safety

John Henderson
John Henderson

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - He was a triathlete, until a collision between his bicycle and a tour bus on Oahu's North Shore four months ago. Now, John Henderson is confined to a wheelchair and working to raise awareness about road safety.

The Waialua resident, who used to swim, bike and run, says he broke nearly every bone in his torso and now needs help just getting out of bed. He says what happened to him could happen to anyone.

As a world class triathlete, John Henderson was quite used to being on wheels.

"John, why don't you come right next to me," Rick Fried, attorney, said as Henderson entered the room on a wheelchair.

But this is not what the active 35-year-old had in mind for his life. He's a paraplegic, with rods and screws holding his battered body together, after a 50,000 pound tour bus collided with his bicycle in May.

"My life has completely changed," Henderson said.

He recently returned from the Craig Spinal Cord Rehab Center in Colorado. He says during his two-and-a-half month stay, he gained some movement in his legs, but he still can't stand or even put on his own shoes.

"I deal with a tremendous amount of pain," the crash victim said. "I'm currently now on a ton of pretty high dose, high level medications, and that's just to create a baseline management for me to just sit here today."

Henderson is now working to raise awareness about bicycle safety and new traffic laws.

"Do cars know that they can get a ticket from a police officer if you go within three feet of a biker?" he asked. "Well, I think that something needs to be done."

His attorney says video from a camera mounted on the bus shows the crash was caused by an inattentive driver. Henderson is suing the tour company, Travel Plaza Transportation, which declined comment.

For now, he looks at a photo of his backyard in Waialua, and recalls biking and playing with his dogs there not too long ago.

"I wake up to the same view, you know, but I can't go," he said through tears. "So that's what's tough. That's what's hard."

Henderson says he will not participate in any criminal case because he believes the bus driver was simply careless, not malicious. He says he filed the civil suit hoping his medical costs and other needs will be taken care of.