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Family of motorcyclist rallies behind helmet bill

Life is precious. One second it’s cruising down the road with an indescribable feeling of freedom and the next, someone is getting a knock on their door that the worst thing that could possibly happen has happened.

On the evening of August 13, 2018, Joe Swim was riding his motorcycle 10 minutes from his home in Dallas and was on his way home.

Unbeknownst to him, he had passed a driver along the way who noticed how happy Joe seemed to be on his motorcycle.

A short while later, that same driver noticed traffic was slowing and drivers were trying to avoid a motorcycle in the road. This struck a chord with the driver because he had just seen a motorcyclist and now all he saw was the motorcycle and no driver.

Jamie Angiel, Joe’s daughter, said Canon Brown was the first person to come upon her father who was lying on the side of the road after being involved in a tragic accident.

Canon helped to divert traffic away from Joe and protect him during that time. Unfortunately Joe was unable to survive injuries he sustained in the accident. He was not wearing a helmet.

The next day, Joe’s family received the dreaded phone call that Joe had passed away in a horrible accident. Jamie took to social media to see what news agencies had covered the fatal accident.

She found an article online and found Canon had commented and then posted his own post about how precious life is. This led her to contact Canon and tell him that she was Joe’s daughter.

Now, more than seven months after the accident, Joe’s family is supporting a Texas state bill that was actually Canon’s idea, to require motorcyclists wear a helmet while riding.

“Canon Brown has been the one helping us with all this,” Jamie said. “If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be where we are today and have the closure we have.”

She said Canon remembers seeing Joe driving on a motorcycle and told Jamie how happy he seemed.

“He was the one to see my dad first hand,” Jamie said. “He had seen him riding a motorcycle and looking like he was having a great day.”

Canon told Jamie that he had only made the post on Facebook to tell others how much this ordeal had impacted him.

“He said he didn’t put it out there for attention, he just wanted to bring attention to the fact that someone is going to get a knock on their door,” Jamie said. “I told him that’s my dad, that is the man you stopped for. Then he went on to say he wants to propose a bill.”

From there, Canon got in contact with a state representative, Victoria Neave, who has now authored and introduced a bill, House Bill 748, that would require motorcyclists to wear a helmet.

Jamie said the reason she, her family and Canon Brown all support the bill is because it provides some accountability for motorcyclists on the road.

“The main thing is accountability,” Jamie said. “We believe that if our dad had that accountability and knew that law was in place, we believe and would like to think our dad wouldn’t have gotten on the motorcycle and he would be here today if he was wearing a helmet.”

Jamie said no other family should have to go through what she and hers has gone through since her dad’s passing.

“There’s all these things about having to bury your parents, but we shouldn’t have to bury them when we are 26, 23 and 19 and he was only 47,” Jamie said. “We shouldn’t have to bury him because of something there was no accountability for.”

Dianna Stueart, Joe’s sister who lives in Levelland, said she knows there are mixed feelings about motorcyclists having to wear helmets, but also knows this is something Jamie and her siblings have been able to do for their dad.

“I now there’s lots of mixed feelings about motorcycles and helmets and things like that,” Stueart said. “And, I understand it should be your choice. But, my thought is maybe if there were a law that required someone to wear a helmet, it could prevent another family to go through what we went through.”

She said she knows Joe made a choice that night when he chose to not wear a helmet, but said if this bill could save even one family from having to endure this tragedy, it’s worth it.

“I know it was a choice, he made a choice,” Stueart said. “Maybe if it was mandatory he would have worn his helmet, maybe he would still be here.”

Jamie said if her dad had been wearing a helmet that night, he might have been able to dance at their father and daughter dance at her wedding two months later.

“My dad and I had actually planned a father and daughter dance but it wasn’t going to be a typical dance,” Jamie said. “It was going to start out slow, then we were going to bust out and really dance.

“That’s the relationship we had, we were very close,” she continued. “He had kept telling me he was going to come to Abilene to practice because he didn’t want to look like a dork.”

She said they never got to practice the father and daughter dance and her younger brother stood in for her dad at her actual wedding.

“You go through life thinking that only bad things happen to other people and not you,” Jamie said. “We live life like we’re promised tomorrow.

“In my dad’s case, he was so free willing and went and did whatever he wanted when he thought about it,” Jamie said. “But now, I don’t ever get to look back on those memories and look back on us dancing at my wedding.”

If nothing else, Jamie said she hopes other people and motorcyclists think about how precious life is and take more precautions.

“Our dad was traveling 10 minutes to get food and come back,” Jamie said. “It makes you understand that anything can happen at any time.”

House Bill 748 was filed in the Texas State House of Representatives on January 11 and read for the first time on February 21. It has since been referred to the transportation committee.

Jamie said sometime in March, her family will speak at a hearing on the house floor to tell their story.

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