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Calgary couple facing mounting hospital tab after Thailand motorcycle crash

(Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information directly from Ashley Stortz)

Insurance troubles have left a Calgary couple recovering in a Thai hospital with mounting hospital bills after a motorbike crash earlier this week.

Matt and Ashley Stortz had travelled to the southeast Asia country where Ashley was attaining her Advanced Open Water dive certificate. They had rented a motorbike to travel to one of the dive sessions the day after a rainstorm, according to close friend Jen Johnson.

Matt was driving with Ashley aboard in the Koh Lanta district, travelling at about 50 km/h when they approached a massive a well known 18-foot wide pothole traversing the road. The potholes forces southbound traffic to veer into the northbound lane. A car travelling in the other direction was coming right toward them and Matt had to navigate a two-foot wide section to avoid a head on crash and that’s when they hit a patch of gravel and sand left there by the previous night’s storm. The couple crashed, sending them skidding along the rocks and pavement, Johnson said.

“They hit the ground pretty hard,” she said.

A fellow diver headed to the same dive that day was in a car along the same route, so they were able to receive medical help right away in Koh Lanta and were transported to hospital in Trang – roughly two-and-a-half-hours away.

Once they arrived in hospital, the couple were treated and wounds were dressed right away. They had to wait for the debridement surgery as the hospital had difficulty connecting with the couple’s insurance provider due to some possible miscommunication.

They eventually did reach the insurance company.

“But they told Matt that because he didn’t have a motorcycle license, they’re not going to cover any of his medical costs,” Johnson said.

Johnson said frustrating part is that they were there as a group last year and they rented similar motorbikes and the rental company didn’t ask for a motorbike license – they just wanted to see your regular license.

Johnson later looked at the World Nomads website and it states that a motorcycle license is needed to in order to receive coverage.

“I don’t think that most people who go to southeast Asia realize that they need a special licence or their insurance is void,” Johnson said.

“If the company itself just rents it to you, you’re like OK, they’ve got my passport, they’ve got my license, what you don’t realize is that it’s actually illegal.”

The World Nomads (Matt and Ashley’s insurer) website dedicates a full article (from 2015) to the topic of travel coverage for motorcycle transportation. While the requirements differ from country to country in southeast Asia, most require some version of an international permit, motorcycle license from home country, helmet rules and more.

“It‘s pretty straightforward; no valid license in the country where the accident happened means you‘re riding illegally and you‘re not covered,” the World Nomad webpage states.

It goes on to say that motorcycle accident is one of the most common World Nomads claims.

Ashley told LiveWire via email that none of the above information was made clear to them when you apply for insurance. She said they ticked the box that said they’d be riding scooters, and there was a small paragraph below saying to make sure they had the proper licencing, which they assumed they had.

The insurer has agreed to pay for Ashley’s claim because she was a passenger.

The couple has already racked up more than $13,000 on credit cards to pay for the costs, and the daily debridement surgery (wound cleaning under anesthesia) is costing $2,200 per day.

The injuries are severe enough (no broken bones or head trauma) to keep the couple in hospital for the next week. Matt’s elbow is rubbed down to the bone and Ashley’s got a severe gash on her knee. Johnson said they’ve been told they can’t stitch the wounds until they’re clean. There’s no set date for the couple’s return as the physicians in Thailand are assessing their wounds daily.

Friends back home here in Calgary have started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover Matt’s expenses. Last check it was nearing $10,000 with a goal of $15,000.

“Definitely from far away you do feel quite helpless,” Johnson said, noting the couple can’t fly for at least two weeks and even then they’ll need upgraded seats so they don’t have to suffer through economy air travel with the serious wounds.

Both Matt and Ashley are servers in the city. Matt works at Winebar Kensington and is something of wine connoisseur, while Ashley serves at the Milestones on Stephen Avenue.