A Co Antrim teenager who sustained horrific injuries in an electric scooter accident in the United States has opened up about her terrifying ordeal and revealed that she is “very lucky to be alive”.
ewtownabbey native Karmen Curley, who is still suffering from the effects of that ordeal in California nearly three years ago, is vehemently against legislation to legalise these vehicles in Northern Ireland.
Like others, Karmen (21) — who now has crash-related seizures and suspected epilepsy — has noticed the growing number of illegal e-scooters here and the apparent lack of action on the part of the PSNI.
In her first interview since the horror accident, Karmen told the Belfast Telegraph that she’s still undergoing tests as a result of the injuries she incurred after being thrown over the front of an e-scooter.
“I was in hospital for camera tests last year and I’m still on medication because of the accident,” she said.
“I get migraines a lot. The experts aren’t sure what’s wrong with me. They believe it may be post traumatic epilepsy linked to the accident.
“My sister told me that as soon as I came round after the accident I started having seizures. I was seizuring in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, whatever way I hit my head.
“The medics told me I was lucky to be alive. They said a lot of people with my type of bleed on the brain don’t survive so I feel very lucky. Even if I do have epilepsy, I’m glad that’s all I have.”
Karmen was just 18 when she hit a pothole while riding an e-scooter and was thrown over the front of it.
After being rushed to UCLA Hospital in Los Angeles, she spent nearly three weeks in intensive care, after being diagnosed with a bleed on the brain. She also suffered a broken collarbone, nose and eye orbital bone.
The young woman, who now lives in Ballyclare, said she doesn’t want to see e-scooters legalised.
“E-scooters are so dangerous, I definitely don’t want to see them on public roads,” she said.
“I see so many kids on them now. I keep thinking I would hate for my child to come off one of them and die. You would just blame yourself for letting them on it.”
The accident happened after she travelled to the US to visit her sister Sian, a student at Southern Connecticut State University.
The sisters had planned a trip around the west coast of California for two weeks with Sian’s university friends before returning home.
Disaster struck, however, when the group decided to rent electric scooters during a day out in Los Angeles.
“Obviously when we hired out e-scooters we thought they looked great and it would be an easy way to get about,” she recalled.
“You don’t think about the fact that if you fall off one of them you’re toast.
“Nobody showed us how to use one. We downloaded an app and scanned the e-scooter. Simple.
“They’re everywhere in America. People travel all over the place on them. It’s probably more common to have accidents there.”
Shop worker Karmen said she doesn’t “remember much about” the day of the accident in May 2019.
“It was the last day of the holiday,” she said.
“We were going home the next morning. We thought we’d gone down to the beach on the e-scooters and… then I ended up in hospital for nearly three weeks.”
Her sister Sian launched a fundraising campaign to help with medical bills. Karmen hadn’t taken out travel insurance before the trip. and the treatment cost more than $15,000 (£11,000) a day due to the seriousness of her injuries. “Every time I woke up in hospital I couldn’t remember where I was,” said Karmen.
“The accident definitely affected my memory — it’s still not the best.
“But I can’t complain. I’m very lucky to be here.”
Karmen said it’s distressing when she sees “kids going about on them all the time” near her home.
“Nobody seems to thinks about health and safety,” she said.
“One of my friends has an e-scooter. I’ve warned him about the dangers and he replied that he’d put his hood up… but you can’t make people listen to you if they don’t want to.
“At the very least they should get helmets.”
She added: “If you fall off a bike you’ll probably come off the side more than you will flip over the front. I flipped right over the front of the e-scooter.”
Dad Frank (54), a car salesman, is still dealing with the cost of the accident, according to Karmen whose mother Karen (47) suffered an aneurysm and died the year before the accident. The family also tragically lost Karmen’s brother Saul in a car accident in 2014.
UUP peer Lord Rogan, who is campaigning against e-scooters, said Karmen’s accident illustrates how e-scooters are “missiles with handlebars”.
“Karmen has endured a horrendous ordeal and I am sorry to learn that she continues to suffer from her injuries two and a half years after the terrifying accident,” he said.
“She knows better than anyone just how dangerous e-scooters are and how much damage they can inflict. They must not be allowed on public roads — not now, not ever.”
Lord Rogan urged the PSNI to “prosecute individuals caught riding these wretched machines on our streets”.
“As Karmen can testify, they have the potential to destroy and even end the lives both of riders and members of the public simply going about their everyday business,” he said.
“Given their growing popularity, despite the ban, I would also encourage the Northern Ireland Executive to launch a public awareness campaign to highlight the dangers e-scooters pose.
“Such a campaign should begin in schools, perhaps led by the PSNI, so our young people understand at any early age that e-scooters are bad news.”
He added: “I will continue to raise these matters in the House of Lords and again commend the Belfast Telegraph for drawing attention to the scourge of these missiles with handlebars.”