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Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Crash

I promised, last week on Facebook, that I'd write about this, and finally...here I am. I wrote it once and erased it, so here's take two.....

image credit: www.orrandonneurs.org
We live in a beautiful part of the world. The interesting thing I learned recently is that sometimes that beauty has a pretty big price tag and that price is paid over and over again in many cases.

A week ago, we headed over the mountains from the Oregon coast back to the Portland area. It is a gorgeous drive. Much of it is forest land.

We were going along at a nice clip, but as we rounded a curve, we came upon red brake lights. Two years ago, in this same spot, we had found similar traffic. At that time, we never understood why, but we were stopped in that spot for quite a long while. Thank goodness we were in good company. Needless to say, as we came upon this again this year, we groaned in unison.

We found ourselves approaching two cars and a very large RV standing stock still in front of us. The cars from the other lane were curving into our lane and back into their own. We knew something was up. It was then that we saw a white minivan with it's front end crunched and it's back up against the hillside. It was sitting perpendicular to the lane opposite us. Airbags had popped out and deflated. I could see at least one person sitting in the van.

credit image: dponline.org
I leaned over to the Warden and said, "Somebody needs to be directing traffic." He said something under his breath and then said, "Move over and drive." He climbed out and ran across the lanes to the minivan. I didn't watch him much from there because I found that I was finally able to maneuver around the traffic. I was just hopeful that there would be a shoulder where I could pull out and wait and not have to drive far away from where the Warden would be.

As I inched my way behind the cars and R.V., I tried to piece together what had happened. After passing the minivan, there were pieces of glass and metal and even a wheel that had come off of a car strewn for at least three yards until we saw a gray Cadillac with California plates. The car was sitting diagonally across the other lane with it's rear end facing us. The wheel had come from the front and the entire front driver's side quarter panel was destroyed. Because of the angle of the car, I couldn't see if anyone was in the car, but I was sure there must have been. How would they have escaped something like that?

image credit: etoncorp.com
I was able to pull off onto a sizable shoulder just beyond the Cadillac. Shortly thereafter, my older brother pulled in behind us with his family. He got out and ran over to assist the people in the accident. His wife came to our van. I tried my phone, #1's phone and my sister-in-law's phone, but even though each said "Emergency calls" on it, I found that that was a lie. We were unable to get through. There was no service in the area. Calling 9-1-1 was pointless.

The Warden directed traffic coming one way while another young man directed the other. They each held back one direction of cars while the other let his go. It really went very smoothly considering what they were dealing with.

I later learned that at one point, while holding his line of traffic back, the Warden chatted with a driver and asked if he would go to the nearest market and stop in to call 9-1-1. The man agreed to do so.

We waited and still no one came.

image credit: thefind.com
My brother ran to our car and asked if we had blankets or water. We handed him all that we had. I grabbed #7's Tinkerbell blanket and explained that there was someone hurt who needed it. She didn't understand, I'm sure, but she let my brother take it. We pulled the rest of the case of water out of the back of our car and sent it with him too.

During this time, an R.V. pulled onto the shoulder on the opposite side of the highway. They were towing a trailer of horses. This was perfect entertainment for the kids. I watched a couple women get out of the R.V. Next thing I knew, they were passing around a small baby.

I later learned from the Warden that shortly after the accident had happened, a car pulled over to help. The driver and his wife were both EMTs. They ran to the rescue and had all kinds of equipment in their car. The Warden says if it weren't for them, the outcome of this accident would have been so much worse. He even went so far as to say they may have saved lives that day.

The baby the women were passing around belonged to this husband and wife. When they arrived one of the R.V. women asked how they could help and the wife-half of the EMT team asked them to take care of her baby for her. The baby was crying in his carseat when they got to the car. They got him out and calmed.

image credit: enotes.com
The Warden called for #2. I watched #2 head across the highway. Next thing I knew, there he was holding up an I.V. that was attached to the driver of the Cadillac. Later, he shared that as he held it the man was just sitting there screaming in pain. It was clear that the driver had a compound fracture in his left leg.

It was after this time that the emergency vehicles began to arrive. First on the scene was a white pick up truck with the word "Sheriff" written on the side. Over the course of the next fifteen minutes or so, other vehicles arrived--a fire truck, an emergency response vehicle, and finally an ambulance followed a bit later by a second ambulance.

I have to be honest, I was SHOCKED at how long it took for the "good guys" to arrive. We were there for pretty close to an hour.

After the emergency vehicles arrived, the Warden and his counterpart stopped the traffic on both sides. People started to emerge from their cars. There was even a man with two little boys who took his camera up to the scene and video taped all that he could. I was amazed that someone would have this kind of cajones. Wow! Really?! I sincerely hope I'm never in an accident in public like this if there are going to be people like this around.

image credit: wendyquest.wordpress.com
The jaws of life cut the man in the Cadillac out of his car. They got him in the ambulance. It was after this that the Warden and #2 returned to our car. The Warden got in and explained that the man was going to be life flighted to the hospital in Portland. He has a teenage son who was in the car with him. We need to follow the ambulance up the highway a bit until they can get the man into the helicopter and then we'll transport the son up to the hospital.

Right before the ambulance pulled away, we tried to warn the people that it was coming and to get out of the way. No one moved. Weird! We pulled in just after it and followed it for quite awhile until the traffic was stopped again--this time by a firefighter. We pulled over. The Warden got out and followed the ambulance on foot. The man was put on the helicopter and the Warden was accompanied back to the car by emergency workers and the teenage boy.

The boy didn't talk much to us. He couldn't tell us where he lived or what school he went to. We wondered if he was in shock. I couldn't say as I would blame him if he was. Wow! What a day for this poor kid. When the Warden got in the car, however, he and the boy had a nice little conversation going. I guess all that experience with middle schoolers pays off in times like this.

The Warden encouraged the boy to call an adult, so he finally called his mom and told her what was happening.

We got to the hospital and the Warden accompanied the boy up to meet up with his mom. He made sure everything was under control and left.

As we headed to the store to buy another blanket for #7 (a promise I'd made to her when I took the original, well-loved one), #2 mentioned how he had some of the man's blood on his hands. I told him not to touch anything. He got out with us at the store and went in to wash. What an experience for a 16-year-old young man.

image credit: target.com
We were unable to find a Tinkerbell blanket, so we ended up with Disney princesses. We got home and got everyone to bed for the night.

The next day, we were driving in the car and the boy's mom called us. She wanted to update us on the boy's father's condition. It seemed that things were stable and that he would be going into surgery soon. It was very nice of her to call us. While on the phone, she shared some interesting experiences she'd had recently--little miracles that helped prepare her for what had happened.

There were so many interesting things that happened during all of this. One thing that amazed me, though, was that when the Warden had a chance to speak with some of the emergency workers, they shared that this kind of thing happens all the time on that stretch of road. That being the case, wouldn't you think there'd be some sort of communication system set up--even a cell tower or something--something to get emergency personnel there a bit faster?

Like I said, all that beauty has a price. I'm just glad this time no one paid it with their life.


Jo Tapasa said...

Thank you for sharing this story. Thank Lolli for me for sharing her special blanket. What a sweet and memorable gift when most needed.

Tonya said...

Wow. You were miracle workers that day. What an amazing story!

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