Sanford, N.C. — For the first time, a young mother from Sanford shared with WRAL News the story of her critical injury in an ATV accident.
Chelsea Coates survived with serious injuries, but her sister, Alexis Stone, died.
Coates said riding ATVs was something she and her sister did many times before on the span of bridge covered by train tracks along U.S. Highway 1, near Oak Park Road.
But, Coates said, for some reason this time, they went off the side of the bridge and plunged 27 feet to the highway below.
Even as she lies in a hospital bed, trying to recover from her many broken bones, Coates thinks about the older sister she lost.
“She loved outside; she loved four wheelers; she loved fishing,” Coates said of her sister.
Stone was driving the ATV in the early morning of Oct. 10.
“When we were about to go over the side of the bridge, she put her arm out and pushed me back so I wouldn’t take the impact and she would,” recalled Coates.
“I lost consciousness whenever I fell, but then I opened my eyes and, you know, I saw her lying beside me because we had landed right beside each other,” she added.
Coates said at first, her family didn’t tell her about her sister’s death so as not to disrupt her recovery. But eventually she learned the truth.
“It just feels like my world was ripped apart, and I just don’t really know how to put it back together,” said Coates.
The biggest injury from the accident was emotional, Coates said.
“I just feel like … kind of lost and kind of empty,” she said.
Coates said she and her sister had been over that bridge on an ATV too many times to count before the accident.
“It was just, I mean, a freak accident … nothing could have prevented the accident from happening,” said Coates. “I’m not going to ever, ever, every go back to the bridge ever again.”
Coates added that’s she not even sure she will ever ride an ATV again because of the trauma she experienced.
“Even now, if I look out the window [at the hospital] and I see how far I am up on the floor, like in the building, it just freaks me out because of how far I fell. It was a 27 foot drop … and that’s a long way,” she said.
The State Highway Patrol said ATVs are not permitted on train tracks in North Carolina.
Coates was released from a local hospital on Thursday. Family and friends are raising money to help support her recovery.