Struck by a speeding ATV earlier this month, Fish and Game Conservation Officer Matt Holmes’ ordeal is likely to show up on “North Woods Law.”
“I had my blue light on and I heard skidding and I had just enough time to see a machine with brakes locked up skidding toward me, then immediately lying on the ground,” said Holmes, who had a camera on the rear of his ATV and was also being filmed by a crew from the popular Animal Planet show.
Holmes was hit from behind June 13 by a two-passenger ATV that was travelling at 65 mph, 40 mph above the posted speed limit on Dummer Pond Road in Dummer.
He said during an interview Monday that had it not been for his helmet and bulletproof vest, he could have suffered head trauma and internal injuries. The Warner native was thrown from his ATV and ended up with cuts and bruises and eight broken ribs.
“Hiccupping is my nemesis,” the 38-year-old said.
He and fellow Conservation Officer Robert Mancini were doing speed enforcement when Holmes tried to stop two speeding ATVs; a third came along and hit him.
The accident is under investigation by New Hampshire State Police.
Lt. Mark Ober, commander at the District 1 Fish and Game office in Lancaster, joined Holmes for Monday’s interview at Cannon Mountain in Franconia.
“The incident, in my opinion, was due to uncontrollable speed, plain and simple,” said Ober, adding that he’s seen video footage of the crash.
The two became Fish and Game conservation officers on the same day — July 8, 2005.
“And after 15 years of playing in traffic,” said Holmes, “it was just the day my card was drawn. I’m very glad to have walked away from it.”
He didn’t actually walk away from the crash. “I tried to crawl but was physically incapable of it,” Holmes recalled. “(but) Bob Mancini pulled me out of the road.”
Holmes caught a second piece of good luck when several off-duty members of the Gilmanton Fire Department, who were themselves riding ATVs, came upon the scene and rendered assistance.
He was airlifted from the scene to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.
Trouble on the trails
Ober said policing “is the million-dollar question” on the state’s ATV trails.
It will continue to be done because Fish and Game keeps receiving complaints about speeding and noise on the trails, from the public and from landowners on whose property the majority of ATV and snowmobile trails in New Hampshire are located.
Despite help from the Coos County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments, sometimes Fish and Game doesn’t have the resources to police the trails as it would like, said Ober.
“Every (Fish and Game district) is in the same situation,” as District 1, said Ober.
Holmes said he’s got a ton of mail to respond to, including much from fans of “North Woods Law,” and thank-you cards to write to the Gilmanton firefighters.
“I have no words,” Holmes said, to express gratitude “for the support I’ve received.”
And, if his bad day translates into good TV ratings, Holmes said he doesn’t mind, since being on “North Woods Law” “only helps the department” and is “a very good way to hang our shingle.”
Holmes, a 2001 graduate of Kearsarge Regional High School who lives with his wife and two toddlers in Whitefield, was stoic about the crash.
“My recovery is going well. I can get around and dress myself and participate” in many life tasks, he said.