He was hit by a driver who ran a red light. It changed his life — and outlook on justice
Gordon Little was hit last May but found some pain came not from the accident but from its aftermath
May 14. For some it's a birthday, or an anniversary, or a day they wish they could just forget.
In 2019, it was a Tuesday.
Gordon Little had just gotten a new motorcycle and rode it to work. On his lunch break he made the trip from Memorial University to the Service NL office in Mount Pearl to register it in his name.
For him, May 14 was just another day.
When the work day ended, Little, 40, left his IT job at Memorial University's QE II library and pulled on his riding leathers, pants, padded jacket, gloves and helmet.
"When I got to the Newfoundland Drive and Portugal Cove Road intersection I got into the turning lane," Little said.
"That's actually the last thing I remember before I was just on the ground."
The collision, and what ensued, has shaken Little — forever altering his outlook on driving culture in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Just after he was flung to the asphalt, Little said, "One person was putting their face into my helmet and they were just yelling, "Are you OK?' I don't know if I cried or screamed because she said, 'No, he's not OK.'"
In a split-second, what began as an ordinary day became one that changed his entire life.
"There were witnesses, and they said a guy just blew through what he thought was the yellow light," said Little
"He ran a red light, T-boned me on the side and ejected me. I flew through the air and then landed on my side."
The driver of the vehicle that hit him, who stayed at the scene, was given a ticket by police for running a red light.
Little said police told him the driver was travelling between 60 and 70 km/h in a 50 zone.
Lying on the ground, his body bloodied and beaten, Little knew something was very wrong with his foot.
'It really sucked, there's no getting around it'
In the ambulance, Little wasn't thinking only about himself.
He knew his wife wouldn't want to hear the news from someone else, so he convinced the paramedics to hand over his cellphone so he could break the news himself.
Once at the Health Sciences Centre, Little underwent a barrage of tests, a CAT scan, and full-body X-rays. Nurses outfitted him with a neck brace. All the tests came back negative, but his ankle wasn't as lucky.
Two metal plates and nine screws were surgically implanted into his right ankle to help it heal.
"Then I was just sent home with incredibly powerful drugs to sleep for the next week," he said. "I was stuck on the bed. I couldn't move. I didn't know how to use the crutches."
As bad as it seemed, it would only get worse.
With a nine-year-old daughter and twin six-year-old girls, summer is a popular time in the Little household.
"We couldn't do any of the normal stuff we did over the summer. It was me looking out the window seeing the kids play out on the lawn," he said.
"Usually, we'd go to Salmonier Nature Park two or three times a summer because it's a nice walk. They liked seeing the animals and you could have a picnic there. But I couldn't participate in any of it."
Missed my kids ballet recital today because I’m laid up here. <a href="https://t.co/yVMKUELjcV">pic.twitter.com/yVMKUELjcV</a>—@gordlittle
Couchbound, Little did his best to make sure his injuries didn't ruin the season for everyone else.
"I tried really, really hard not to let them know I was having trouble with it, but you know it really sucked, there's no getting around it. I couldn't go anywhere."
Little said there were two steps leading into his house, but they "might as well have been 20 feet tall" because he had to crawl up those stairs to get in and out of the house.
As summer turned to fall, Little's leg continued to heal. He worked from home but began heading into the office a few days a week.
Despite being in constant pain, Little put his best foot forward.
"I've spent so many months just trying to put on a happy face for everybody: for the kids, for my wife, for work," he said.
"People pass you in the hallway and they're like, 'How's the foot?' and you're like, 'It's great.' But every single footstep is a shot of pain and it doesn't go away."
Back in court months later
Months later — with the accident in the rearview mirror — Little was still dealing with his insurance company.
Then a letter came in the mail. A subpoena to go to court.
The guy who ran the red light and hit him was contesting the traffic ticket.
"I didn't feel really good about it," Little said.
"I had to take time off of work. I got there and it's not really well laid out because you're all just sitting there on these benches ... and then there is the guy who's contesting his ticket that hit me with his car, sitting three feet away from me."
When Little had his chance to speak before the judge the very first thing said to him was about the accident on "May 4."
"No," Little told the court. "It was May 14."
"The lawyer looks down at his notes and he looks over the judge. The judge is not looking very happy. The judge says, 'I have to talk to the counsel for a few minutes. Everyone leave.'
Little never made it back into the courtroom. The ticket given to the driver was dismissed because the officer had written the wrong date.
"It had been apparently miswritten and then he had scratched it out," said Little.
"[The lawyer] showed me a print of the ticket and in the date field it was just garbage."
Little left Atlantic Place dejected and furious.
"I felt kind of dead inside at that point," he said. "That was really the crappiest cherry on a really shit cake."
A series of small mistakes have left him in pain — a driver who took a chance running a red light, an officer writing the wrong date, and no one in traffic court picking up on it.
Little doesn't think his ankle will ever be fully back to normal.
"They don't think it's gonna get a whole lot better," he said. "It's just going to be a crap ankle for the rest of my life and I'll just have to deal with it."
He won't get on a motorcycle ever again, but even driving has presented challenges, with his newfound perspective on motorists in St. John's.
"Being a passenger was worse. To just sit there while someone else was in control, no matter how good they are, you're just, you're clutching and you just, you really start to see how crappy everyone in town is driving. It's terrible," Little said.
"No one actually drives the speed limit. No one pays attention to the yellow light.… Everyone is trying to get where they gotta go as fast as possible."
While he's optimistic about the future, he has strong views on the state of traffic here. Bad habits need to change, he said, to prevent what happened to him from happening to others.
"The veneer of society is peeled off after you've had an accident," he said.
"It's really scary."