Let me start by saying that mere participation in freestyle motocross takes nerves of steel. Add to that the myriad new tricks popping up and the ever-present desire for riders to one-up their competition, and you get even more jaw-dropping and extremely dangerous moves.
This tragic incident took place on February 9, 2009 in San Jose, Costa Rica at Saprissa Stadium. Jeremy Lusk, a member of the riding team Metal Mulisha, was performing various freestyle maneuvers during this motocross competition and landing them left and right.
A Guns-N-Roses song blasting in the background, he then attempted a maneuver called the Hart Attack Indian Air Backflip. In order for this to make more sense, you’ll first need to understand each facet of this maneuver. This will get complicated, (especially for non-motocross aficionados such as myself) so please try to envision each step as you read. All of these tricks are performed in the air after the bike and its rider have left a steep ramp. When accomplished, the bike and rider return to the ground wheels-down with the rider seated or standing on the bike.
To understand the first part of the name, you’ll need to learn another beforehand:
Now, knowing all of that, the trick that Jeremy Lusk tried to perform consisted of the last three listed above – all at the same time: The Hart Attack Indian Air Backflip.
- Superman Seat Grab – This trick consists of the rider dismounting the dirt bike to its rear, laying his body out flat (facing the ground), extending his arms out over his head (mimicking Superman in flight), and then grabbing the seat.
- Hart Attack – Sometimes misspelled as “heart attack” online, this trick (named after fellow motocross freestylist, Carey Hart – the first to do it – otherwise known as an Inverted Superman) consists of doing the Superman Seat Grab (or one hand on the seat, one on the handlebars) while the bike is completely upside down; the rider’s feet pointed toward the ground.
- Indian Air – This trick consists of the rider holding onto the bike’s handlebars, the rest of his body leaving the bike, twisting slightly to one side or the other, then spreading his legs front-to-back before remounting the bike normally.
- Backflip – Speaking for itself, this trick is flipping the bike backwards before landing safely.
The video in question can be found in both long and short versions, but the most common is just over 30 seconds. When viewing it, the trick appears primarily as a Hart Attack/Inverted Superman being attempted.
The tragedy occurs when Lusk under-rotates the flip, causing his bike’s front wheel to strike the ground with the bike essentially pointing straight down.
This caused Lusk to be catapulted off of the bike and into the ground head-first. He was knocked unconscious immediately as his full-face helmet was torn apart, causing his forward momentum to cease and his limp body to fold and roll to a stop; his bike flipping out of frame to the viewer’s left.
He was immediately put onto a stretcher and transported to the hospital. The competition continued after a brief delay, his friends and competitors worried sick throughout – but trying to press on.
Doctors medically induced a coma to reduce brain swelling, and performed surgery for five hours in attempts to save his life.
Late the next night, surrounded by his parents, his wife, his wife’s parents, and four of his fellow Metal Mulisha members, Jeremy Lusk succumbed to his injuries.
He was 24 years old.