Some things make you feel very, very lucky to be alive. Having a major car crash happen right in front of you is one of those things.
Donna and I were returning from visiting a hotel which we plan on moving into. As we drove around the outer belt of Columbus Ohio I witnessed a silver 2009 Ford Mustang zip across a lane of traffic and slam into a semi-trailer that was four or five car lengths ahead of us, in the lane next to us. Donna looked up as the debris and sparks started flying as the car was being dragged just forward of the back wheels of the trailer.
My thoughts were on navigating the debris and watching for the truck to swerve, maybe tip, or the car to break loose from under the trailer. The highway was busy and I wondered if I should try to drive on by the truck, but decided instead to stay behind and slow down. That’s when I said out loud “I was a witness,” Donna’s response was “I’m a nurse,” and that made my decision to stop.
The truck driver did a fantastic job of handling his rig when the accident occurred. He did not swerve, but held his truck steady and eased over to the berm. As we pulled up behind, Donna and I had both reached for our cell phones as our car came to a stop. She asked if I was going to call 911, I said yes, and so she dropped her phone and leaped from the car. It seemed like it took forever to get through to a 911 operator, but my cell phone record shows that my call only lasted forty-five seconds, and I had explained to them what had happened and where the accident had occurred. My call was placed at 3:09 p.m.
I saw the driver of the truck come running around the back end carrying a fire extinguisher. He rushed to the car noting that there was no fire or gas leaking.
I’ll let you all know right now that the last word we had as we left the scene was that the young man in the Mustang was still alive.
Obviously other people had been calling in to report the accident, so the operator who was talking with me let me go. I climbed from our car and run up to see if there was anything I could do, and Donna was running back towards me asking if I had my pocket knife. I did, so I pulled it out and handed it to her, she turned and handed it to an off-duty fireman who had been part of the traffic and had stopped to help. I knew what he wanted the knife for, to cut the seatbelt loose so he could better assess and work on the injured driver. Less than a two foot distance separated the driver from the back wheels of the semi-trailer he’d gone under. The driver’s door was completely gone, it had been crumpled like aluminum foil under the trailer’s wheels. If the young man hadn’t been wearing his seat belt he would likely have been thrown out and under the wheels.
The driver was unconscious but did not seem mangled. I noted a thin trail of blood running down behind his ear, which I assume came from the roof of the car having been smashed down. His airbag had not deployed.
The off-duty fireman seemed to know what he was doing, and another man who had stopped was assisting him well. Donna and another nurse who had stopped also helped as they could. At the request of the fireman, they retrieved the cars registration from the glove box, found out the driver’s name (Bruce) and that he had owned the car just a little over a month.
I knew there wasn’t much I could do so I stayed back and out of the way.
One thing I noticed that has really stuck in my mind is that the car’s seats sported U.S. Army seat covers; and I thought to myself “God, I hope he wasn’t just back from the war.”
It was about this time that I heard the first sirens and saw a couple of Dublin (OH) police cruisers come flying up to the scene. Fire trucks followed, and then finally the squad with the EMTs. It had been about four minutes since I made my call to 911.
The rescue workers had the truck driver inflate his air ride shock absorbers, which helped lift the weight of the trailer off the car, they then used the jaws-of-life to cut the roof from the Mustang and lift the driver out and onto a back board. They loaded him into the squad and away they went. All of this took just over thirty minutes.
As a witness of the actual crash - although not to what caused the young man to loose control - I stuck around, filled out a report and then talked with one of the police crash investigators. They said they might call me later or have me come in to answer more questions.
As I stood around and out of the way I decided to snap some pictures; the local newspaper as well as my blog being in my mind. I’m not a professional reporter and I don’t have any morbid curiosity, so I only took a few pictures and none of them are close-ups of the driver. I’ve shared two here. One of the accident before help arrived, and one taken after the young man had been removed and taken away by the emergency squad. On the right hand side of the second picture you can see the corner of the removed roof lying on the ground.
One of the other witnesses had been right behind the young man. Apparently he had been coming down the on-ramp from SR 161. The witness saw the car fishtail, and then seemingly right itself, and the witness thought the young man had regained control of the vehicle when suddenly it shot forward and slammed into the truck. The roads were wet as it had been raining, although it was not raining at the time of the accident.
We were let go from the scene at a little after 4:00 p.m. and we were somewhat surprised at hearing on the radio that the area was still blocked to traffic more than two hours later. I guess this makes sense as the only way they were going to get that car out from under the trailer was going to be by lifting the trailer, and that would mean using a crane.
As I said, the last word we had from the authorities at the scene was that the young man was still alive. Although we searched today’s local paper for any news there was no story. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.