Al Ain quad biking horror story a warning to others, unlucky couple say

After a crash in the Al Nabbagh desert, a couple faced injury, prosecution and spiralling hospital and rental company bills.
Jessie Kerkhove, right, was seriously injured in the crash and Hamed Al Obiadi was briefly jailed. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Jessie Kerkhove, right, was seriously injured in the crash and Hamed Al Obiadi was briefly jailed. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

AL AIN // People who rent quad bikes face prosecution for driving unlicensed vehicles, even if they are used only off road in the desert.

One young man spent more than a week in prison and was fined Dh6,300 after a quad-bike accident in which his fiancee was seriously injured. The police and the courts applied road-traffic laws, even though the quad bike was never on a road.

Jessie Kerkhove, 29, from Belgium, suffered internal bleeding and a shattered leg when the quad bike driven by Hamed Al Obaidi, 27, hit a rock and flipped over in the desert at Al Nabbagh. Ms Kerkhove and Mr Al Obaidi, who was born in the UAE, rented the bike with two friends. “Everyone said it was such fun but after half an hour we had problems,” she said.

“Just off the road there was a small patch of rough ground, we were not in the sand yet, and going up and down.

“We started going faster and when Hamed wanted to drive into the sand, we hit some rocks and we were thrown off the bike.

“When I opened my eyes the bike was four metres away. My friend thought we were dead because we had been thrown so high into the air.”

Ms Kerkhove suffered bleeding to her liver and several fractures to a leg. The bike struck Mr Al Obaidi when it landed, and he had severe bruising to his back.

Their friends immediately called for an ambulance and both were taken to Al Ain Hospital within an hour. Ms Kerkhove was operated on to have screws inserted to piece her leg back together.

The couple then became victims of the absence of a law specifically governing quad bikes. Traffic law from 1995 says drivers must have a licence and vehicles must be registered, but only “on the road”. At no point did Mr Al Obaidi drive on a road.

The rental company, Al Bade, said a licence was not required to drive a quad bike in the desert, and quad bikes did not need to be registered or have licence plates. “The driver must be over the age of 18, and we take a copy of their ID,” a spokesman said.

The police and the courts, however, took a different view.

First, police held Mr Al Obaidi responsible for the accident on November 27 last year. He was arrested and spent more than a week in prison.

At a court hearing in Al Ain on December 6, he was convicted of causing Ms Kerkhove’s injuries, driving without a licence and driving an unregistered vehicle and fined Dh6,300.

The financial cost to the couple is also mounting. Their initial medical treatment was paid for by police, but follow-up care for Ms Kerkhove is expected to cost about Dh6,000.

In addition, the rental company has demanded that they pay the Dh17,000 cost of the quad bike, which was undamaged in the accident, but has been impounded by police.

“I am due to have a second operation this month and the doctors have said it will take about three months for me to walk again,” Ms Kerkhove said.

“We have no money left. I don’t know how we will pay this month’s utility bills and rent, let alone the medical bills for my next surgery.

“People don’t realise the problems they can get into just by going for something as innocent as a drive into the desert.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Dana Moukhallati

Published: January 5, 2016 04:00 AM

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