June 14, 2015, was a day that changed Paul Kerr’s life forever. He’d taken his motorcycle safely from Kimberley to Kootenay Lake over Gray Creek Pass, but he was about 15 minutes from home on the return trip when he ended up in a ditch — and then pinned under his bike for the better part of three days.
“They told me another seven hours and I would have been dead,” said Kerr. “I was so dehydrated.”
The accident, which resulted in the amputation of his left leg, is the subject of a new book by Lori Luczka, who follows the ordeal from the point of view of others, including Kerr’s family and the search and rescue team, as well as the cyclists who inadvertently discovered the accident scene.
“There are stories within the story,” she said.
Luczka and Kerr are launching Lost: 7 Hours to Live in Creston with a signing at Save-On-Foods from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Aug. 24. She’s looking forward to bringing the book to her hometown — her parents are Marlene and Ralph McGunigle, and Mervin Betker — after launching the book in Kerr’s hometown of Kimberley.
“The community of Kimberley is phenomenal, and everybody knows him,” said Luczka.
“That’s the guy with the leg!’ What a way to get famous!” added Kerr.
Luczka and Kerr knew each other as teenagers, and he was actually her prom date. But they lost touch as he spent 20 years as a Ferrari and Maserati mechanic in Vancouver, and she lived for 26 years in Alberta and Saskatchewan, before returning to Creston in 2018 to work at the Creston Veterinary Hospital.
They got back in touch following the accident, which others suggested that Luczka write about it. She approached it from the angle of others’ reactions to the incident, partly because Kerr was unconscious during the days he was trapped under the bike.
Although the lack of memory provided Luczka with a unique approach to Lost, her first book, it later proved traumatic for Kerr, who couldn’t drive past the Gray Creek Pass access road without starting to panic, eventually leading to visiting the accident site.
“It was brutal because there was no real memory,” said Kerr. “I had to go there and actually see. Once I saw, it was a lot better.”
The physical trauma he endured was more visible, particularly when he was first rescued.
“I looked like a zombie,” said Kerr.
After an initial assessment in the East Kootenay Regional Hospital — where, among other injuries, he was found to have a broken neck — Kerr was taken to Kelowna, where his leg was amputated.
It took Luczka three and a half years to write the book, which, in addition to presenting what happened while Kerr was missing, also chronicles his recovery following the accident. While his mobility will never be the same, he has been able to ski with a special prosthetic, and the pair hope the book will provide some comfort and inspiration to others with disabilities.
“It doesn’t mean he’s not able to do things he did before,” said Luczka. “It just means he does them differently.”