Eagle Scout hopeful Robert Quill has become a vocal advocate for bike helmets.
Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

Robert Quill, 16, is a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster with KP Boy Scout Troop 220. He joined the troop in 2011 and is working to become an Eagle Scout with a project to replace the announcement sign at the Key Peninsula Civic Center, continuing the long tradition of Eagle Scout projects there. The original timeline was to complete installation and have the dedication before the start of school this month. Unfortunately, those plans are on hold.

On June 27, Robert and his mother, Sarah Quill, were riding their bikes along Lake Helena Road to Wicks Lake in Port Orchard. As they neared their destination, they saw a smashed recycling bin and its contents scattered across the eastbound lane. To avoid the broken bottles and shards of glass, and to make room for a van approaching from the rear, Sarah turned to the right and Robert turned left into the westbound lane.
Sarah believes she may have hit a bottle, because her bike skidded on gravel and flipped into the ditch.

The van hit Robert from behind, knocking him into the ditch on the opposite side of the road and came to a stop with the front left tire pinning him face down.

“I was frantic and began beating on the front of the van to get the driver to back up,” Sarah said. She has experience as a surgical nurse and began assessing his injuries.

“No parent should have to see their child in an accident like that and feel that pain,” she said.

Once freed, Robert moved and moaned. His mouth and nose were filled with dirt and his bike helmet was smashed. Sarah feared that unless she could keep Robert still his head and neck injuries would worsen.

“When he made his first sound—a deep, guttural, heart-wrenching sound—I was sure I would watch my son die,” she said.

Robert spent three days in the hospital including two in ICU with a concussion and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He also sustained a broken wrist requiring surgery and a screw, a broken forearm, two broken ribs and multiple abrasions to legs, arms and body—including tire tread marks on his back and shoulder.

“The soft ground in the ditch and the bike helmet were all that saved my life,” Robert said.

He feels that he is well on the road to recovery and said that most of the planning for his Eagle Scout Project has been completed. If all goes well, Robert will be out of his cast by the end of August and, after some physical therapy, will start work on the new sign.

“Robert is a great young man,” said Scout Master Steve Goins. He looks forward to the completion of Robert’s Eagle Scout project and expressed pride in the troop’s commitment to serve the community. “Many of the Eagle Scout projects are done at the civic center because they provide storage for our equipment and meeting space. It’s how we pay them back.”

Goins listed some Eagle Scout projects already completed on the civic center grounds: Scott O’Dell built the fire pit; the tables were built by Evan Pernu; his brother, Colin Pernu, repainted the whale carving and rebuilt the protective cover for it outside the KP Historical Museum; and Kevin Pszczola installed a ham radio connection and antennae to better equip the civic center as an emergency shelter site.

Robert will graduate from South Kitsap High School but begins his junior year in September as a full-time student in the Running Start program at Olympic College. He plans to be a mechanical engineer.

Robert wants to get back on a bike, but will need to get a new helmet and a new bike. Meanwhile, Robert said, “Don’t ride without a helmet. My helmet saved my life.”

Bike helmets are available for $7.00 at the Key Peninsula Fire Department headquarters in Key Center. Drop in at any time between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to get fitted for one.

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