It was a typical early Sunday morning for Ricky Carter, a decorated 22-year Miami-Dade police major with bulging biceps, a big easy smile and a love for motorcycles.
The sun was shining the morning of May 7 as Carter rode his powerful Suzuki Hayabusa on I-75 toward Miami-Dade County. He was on his way to a fundraiser. That wasn’t unusual for Carter, a religious and community-oriented cop who often spent weekends building homes for those in need.
Suddenly, it all went blank for Carter. His bike had flipped and came to rest a gnarled mess next to a guardrail on the side of the road. His next memory: Waking up in a hospital bed. He said he has no recollection of the accident.
“I looked down and saw casts on both arms and that I was missing my legs. It was quite a bit to absorb,” said Carter.
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On Monday — just over three months since the accident stole his legs, the 43-year-old former major of the county’s Northside District began a new phase of his career. He now oversees the department’s warrants bureau and its 81-person staff from Miami-Dade police headquarters in Doral.
Carter returned to work a mere 99 days after he was robbed of his legs. His arms have fully recovered. Still several months away from the formal fitting of new prosthetic legs, Carter spoke of his ordeal Tuesday. His legs were missing, but he dressed nattily in a plaid shirt and a red bow tie.
“It feels awesome to be back. I really miss working with the community,” he said. “There’s no limitation to me not having my legs. I appreciate things a lot more now, don’t take anything for granted.”
Doctors credited Carter’s quick return to his overall physical fitness. He’s already been seen doing chin-ups. Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said doctors have cleared Carter’s return.
“Having him back is a testament to his commitment to this community,” said Perez. “He lives to serve and we will help him come back to full duty. He’s an inspiration to all of us.”
Anti-violence community activist Tangela Sears said Carter is the rare high-ranking police officer who works very closely with residents and business owners.
“When he crashed it left a big hole in our hearts,” she said. “Everybody knows him, kids, ordinary residents, businesses. That says a lot for a major.”
Carter’s accident galvanized co-workers and the community. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised through various events, including a softball game the major attended several weeks ago. “Ricky Strong” T-shirts and wristbands have become common sights around town, especially in the county’s north end.
Still, his recovery expenses are daunting. His new legs are expected to cost close to $200,000 and insurance won’t cover all of Carter’s expenses, which also include several more months, if not years, of intensive therapy and physical training.
To help defray the medical costs, the police department has set up a pair of fundraising sites at www.POAT.com and www.gofundme.com/assistance-for-major-ricky-carter.
Carter said there are still a few things he still needs to tidy up even as he returns to work. One of them: Meeting Thalia Rodriguez, the 17-year-old Westland High School senior credited with saving the major’s life.
Thalia was on her way to a ride-along at the Hialeah fire department the morning Carter crashed. She spotted him and rushed over. When a nurse named Vianca Diaz pulled over as well, Thalia’s training from a health science class kicked in. The two women found a belt and applied a tourniquet to one of Carter’s legs, effectively slowing the bleeding.
“I really don’t remember that day,” Carter said. “And I haven’ had the opportunity to meet her yet.”
As for hopping back aboard a motorcyle, Carter said he has every intention of giving it a shot. Though he said he’d never admit that to his daughter, who he said has been firm in telling her dad his biking days are over.
Besides, there’s something Carter has to take care of long before he climbs onto another motorcyle.
“My goal is to be walking, first,” he said.
How to Help
To help defray the medical care costs of Major Ricky Carter, the Miami-Dade police department has set up a pair of fundraising sites at www.POAT.com and www.gofundme.com/assistance-for-major-ricky-carter.