Police Blame Rider Error for Busey’s Cycle Accident

Times Staff Writer

As actor Gary Busey’s condition improved Monday after a motorcycle mishap, police attributed the accident to rider error and said Busey’s injuries would have been less severe had he been wearing a helmet.

“It appears to be straight driver error,” said Culver City Police Lt. Ellis Smith.

Had Busey, a vocal opponent of laws requiring helmets, been wearing one, “I don’t think even the helmet would have broken,” Smith said.

Doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center reported that Busey was partly conscious and responding to commands. A hospital spokesman said he has improved steadily since 90 minutes of surgery Sunday afternoon, in which blood clots were removed. His skull was not fractured, and physicians believe the actor has not suffered brain damage.


“He is out of the woods,” spokesman Ron Wise said late Monday. “We are becoming increasingly optimistic that he will have a full recovery.”

Despite police pronouncements, a man who saw Busey fall and ran to his assistance said he does not believe a safety helmet would have made any difference.

“Accidents are accidents,” said Gene Thomason, a salesman at Bartels’ Harley-Davidson in Culver City. “That’s all there is to it. There’s nothing that could have stopped it.”

Busey, 44, who shot to stardom with his portrayal of rock ‘n’ roll great Buddy Holly in a 1978 film, had just picked up his motorcycle from the dealership after returning from a week’s vacation.


Busey had pulled out onto Washington Boulevard and traveled about 90 feet to Robertson Boulevard, where he lost control of the motorcycle in a right turn.

Helmets are only required for riders under age 15 1/2. A bill making helmets mandatory overwhelmingly passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian. Busey has been active in raising funds for the California Motorcycle Assn., which argues that untrained and unlicensed riders are a greater danger than riders without helmets.

On Monday, Assemblyman Richard Floyd (D-Hawthorne) again introduced a bill mandating helmets. His assistant, Bob Terry, said statistics show 24,662 people were injured in cycle accidents in 1987 and 741 were killed.