North

Yukoner Darryl Tait marks life changing event with thanks giving

Tait says community support has helped him fulfil a vow to ride again and remain active after losing use of his legs.

Tait says community support has helped him fulfil vow to ride again and remain active

Darryl Tait marked 10 years since a crash left him without the use of his legs at an event Friday with dozens of friends and family members. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Family and friends of Whitehorse resident Darryl Tait gathered on Friday to mark the tenth anniversary of the crash that left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Tait was displaying snowmobile jumps at an event in the eastern United States when a backflip went awry and the machine landed on him.

He suffered severe injuries including a severed spinal cord.

Tait was close to death. 

His mom Barb recalled at Friday's event how three doctors who examined him at a Boston hospital said he could not be saved.

A fourth doctor, however, disagreed and saved his life.

Darryl's sister-in-law, Becky Tait, said the period immediately following the crash was surreal. Nobody wanted to accept that Darryl was paralyzed.

"With the strength that Darryl has, he helped us, in those moments to show us that it was going be okay," she said.

"You know, he fought so hard to just stay alive and he fought so hard to have life again and feel complete again." 

Darryl's parents Barb and Jamie Tait, are grateful for support from across the North. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Along with family members, Tait said, friends from Yellowknife and Whitehorse went to Boston to see him in the hospital.

The tenth anniversary of Tait's "re-birthday" was a good time to thank all those who have supported the family, including northerners in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Atlin, the three communities where he grew up.

Tait said the support was critical to him deciding he was going to have the life he wanted to have.

He vowed to CBC News a month after his crash that he would remain active and would ride a snowmobile again. He's done that, but there have been struggles.

"There was the hard times that I was like, 'I can't do this, I can't do this anymore,'" he said.

 "And when I get to those low points there is when somebody would come behind me and be like, 'let's just do it and let's get 'er done.'"

"I just dug myself out of that hole," Darryl said, "and if it wasn't for those people then it could of spiralled down a totally different path."

Close friend Jordan Sands talked about some of his adventures with Tait. (Dave Croft/CBC)

He and Jordan Sands have been close all of their lives. 

Sands said Tait is an incredible individual.

"He's the kind of guy that, after putting us all through a serious situation where it really was pretty difficult, one year to the day later he made me push him off a plywood ramp I built with a chainsaw to adamantly do a backflip on his one year anniversary of his accident,"

That's the kind of person he is, Sands said.

"He's never stopped, like none of the injuries or anything ever slowed that kid down," he said.

 "Not one bit."

Tait is perhaps best known for not giving up his love for what some see as extreme stunts.

A home video of him doing a flip in his wheelchair into a snow bank has been used in a national advertising campaign and in a recent episode of the Fox animated program, Family Guy.

The feats of daring keep his mom on edge. But Barb said she had been forewarned.

"Well, I know at rehab they said that they become more of who they are," she said.

"So if he was one of those kids that was on the edge trying things anyways, he's going to be more of that."

But one of his cousins pointed out Friday that, that part his life is just a fraction of who he is.

Tait advocates for people with disabilities in Yukon and keeps in contact with others in similar situations as him around the world via social media.

He participates in sports events in Canada, the United States and other countries. Many include workshops with children.

Not long after his crash he began speaking to high school classes in the territory about making choices, assessing risk and the potential consequences.

Tait has been taking classes at Yukon College with the goal of another life change.

"I'll be trying to push myself in different ways, like trying to establish a career under my belt so that one day I can support a family, have kids," he said, "and begin another great, grand adventure with them, is my hope."

Whatever happens, he said, he's looking forward to it.

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