Another Close Call With Death...
Update: 6-6-11 Glasgow Daily Times published an article and one of my photos regarding the wreck. The article contains updated information on their status and more information about the wreck. Click here to read. I am aware my blog post is long due to describing what I witnessed in detail.Scroll to the bottom for a short version condensed into a paragraph. The link to view the rest of the photos is also at the bottom.
Recently I posted a blog entry about the lack of driver safety in Glasgow. Today I was witness to another dramatic wreck, but this time it was almost my turn. This was the 4th wreck I'd witnessed in less than 6 months! Had I not been paying attention, my Daughter and I may not have made it home. I feel guilty that the car hit the driver behind me instead, but am thankful that I was able to protect my Daughter. Please pray for the families involved. Hopefully my post and photos will increase driver's safety awareness. 4+ wrecks in such a short time is either crazy coincidence or its time for changes! I'm wondering if God wants me to be a paramedic??
Fridays my Daughter and I go shopping for groceries and to her appointment with OT for her probable Autism. I remember waking up with another of my apocalyptic dreams. I know many of you don't believe in foreshadows or premonitions. Due to the frequency of my experiences, I've begun to believe in the possibility. The rest of the morning I had a feeling something was going to happen. I told my Husband that something didn't feel right. I'd had those dreams again and currently had a feeling I couldn't shake. He assured me that everything would be OK and we left for town. My husband needed the car back home by 7pm in order to be at work by 8pm for some much appreciated overtime. After her appointment, I'd stopped for a last minute errand at Wal-mart. I'd promised to purchase my daughter some fish for her tank before we went home. I wasn't yet used to not being able to take my time and getting groceries before her appointment rather than later had messed up my usually prompt routine. I utilized the side-streets so I could avoid the congestion and traffic around the square. It was already around 7pm so I knew I'd be late, but thankfully traffic was low that afternoon. Our location takes 25 minutes with traffic or 10-15 minutes without traffic. Yes, going the speed limit. I would make it later than preferred, but early enough for him to make it since he usually arrives early to change into his uniform.
When you are leaving Glasgow, heading to HWY 90 towards Summer Shade, the road widens into double lanes as you pass the overpass and exits. The road again narrows into two lanes at JR Foods. I was following a newer silver van. Not wanting to be behind traffic, I safely passed them using the right lane. I have a habit of watching my rear-view for other cars. As I passed them, I watched a black car and another behind them doing the same thing I was. Within moments I approached the exit-ramp from Bowling Green. Another habit of mine is to watch exits, lights and roads where cars are stopped waiting to pull-out or could be. Call it paranoia, but that 'paranoia' saved my life and my Daughter's.
As I approached the ramp, I glanced to my right anticipating a car ascending. This ramp has always been dangerous. It's slightly downhill as you approach it making it harder to see a car rapidly approaching. I was starting to pass the end of the ramp and saw a champagne color car rapidly approaching. They weren't slowing down. I remember thinking, "Wow...they're flying...they're going too fast...something's not right. Even slowing down, there's no way they'd stop in time." Thank God for my instincts, I had barely enough time to speed up so they'd miss my rear. I then thought, "OMG what about the car that's behind me...they were so close to me...If only I could warn them."
I watched helplessly in my rear-view mirror praying that they would miss them or that the black car would see them in time, as I did. Unfortunately within a matter of seconds after I passed the ramp, I watched horrified as the ramp car violently crashed into the side of the black car. The force of the impact spinning the black car 360 onto the several inch tall median and propelling the other car across all four lanes. Pieces of plastic and glass filled up the rear-view mirror. All edges of my view were full of the scene. It was as if someone had transmitted a movie into my rear-view mirror. Instantly people were running from the surrounding cars to assist the drivers. I had a second where I thought, "OMG! This can't be real". Unfortunately it was.
It took me a split second to convince myself that it was indeed reality. When I did, I quickly turned around at JR Foods while calling 911 at the same time. I was shaking from the rush of adrenaline, but thankfully it didn't affect my judgment while dialing on my touchscreen which is a miracle in itself! During the two seconds it took me to stop, look down and call 911, I hesitated. Should I continue on home so my Husband has the car? We can't afford to loose his job. I promised to be home and I was already late. When I heard the voice of the 911 responder, in that moment I said, "NO! I will go back. I have first-aid training. They may need my help. I need to let them know I've called 911 so I can provide some comfort at-least in that knowledge". I believe in Karma and doing what's right. I've always returned to wrecks because it could just as easily be me one day. In 2005 it was, but we'll get to that another time. I was on the phone with 911 as I was returning to the wreck.
"911 what is your emergency?"
"There was a wreck at the Cumberland Parkway exits at HWY90 to Summer Shade below JR Foods. A car flew up the ramp and hit the car behind me. Please send help."
"Please hold while I transfer you to Glasgow."
Twice I was 'transferred' and twice they lost me. I called a third time and told them, "Twice I called about a wreck and was dropped during your transfer to Glasgow. Please hurry!"
I was then transferred correctly and again relayed the information.
My other intention was to block the traffic due to the glass and people running around. When I returned to the scene, I was the closest car in front on the lanes to Glasgow beside the ramp to Edmonton. I parked in the center of the lanes. The other cars approaching me were already stopping. I watched with the motor running to make sure they were stopping so I'd not be hit from behind. During that moment I was also still on the phone with GPD as requested. I remained on the line until they were finished. I was also yelling out my window to the victims in the black car asking if they were alright. I offered first aid assistance, but they declined. I told them that I'd called 911 and they were on their way. They thanked me for calling and continued to attend to the victims. Within seconds sirens sounded from all around. I was disappointed in the dispatchers for losing me, but the speed in the response more than made up for that.
Since my Daughter was with me, she was another major concern. She reacts differently to situations than alot of kids her age. Knowing that she most likely could see the wreck, I got out and opened her door so we could talk.
"Lorna, I know you can see what happened and I understand if you are scared. You know how you get a boo-boo? Sometimes cars do too...people aren't always watching and sometimes they hit each other...have accidents. Do you understand?"
"Do you understand that Mommy needs to help them now? Will you be ok if we stay? Do you want to go home now?"
She then looked at me with these oddly knowing eyes and said, "Car broken, fix car." I was so proud of her in that moment. She could've easily been scared and crying or told me "home", but she understood and was patient. She did so well that she sat quietly and played until we were later able to head home. I also had peanut butter and crackers in my lunch bag, so I fixed her some food and water to help her be more relaxed. I also had frozen goods and soy milk in the back of my car that had already sat for over an hour. Time wasn't on my side that day it seemed. I was already late returning home for my husband to have the car for work. I looked around for a way to turn around, but I had myself boxed in between glass and cars. I'd be there awhile, so I called my Husband and explained the situation and advised him to inform work the reason he would be late. I worried he would get in trouble, but hoped they would understand if it could be proven, via my photos, where I was.
I am a human first and a photographer second, but I take my camera with me everywhere. I called 911, offered first aid and only then followed my photographer instincts and captured the scene. I always respect the victims and those that assist by staying out of the way...avoiding being a distraction. I've previously had some of my photos published in Glasgow Daily Times as a freelance photographer, so I am always watching for opportunities to improve my portfolio and to contribute to the paper. I realized that I wasn't able to leave so I had to do something. Documenting the wreck could not only be a useful contribution to the paper, it could be useful to the victims for insurance or court and myself as proof that I was there. Returning to my seat, I began to watch and document as the scene unfolded.
The driver of the black car was still inside. It was a Chevrolet Impala from Cumberland County. They were most likely heading home. The passengers I saw were a young Caucasian teenage girl who was limping and a younger Caucasian teenage boy. I watched helplessly as they assisted them out of the car. I yelled at them not to move them, but noone seemed to hear me. A victim could have spinal injuries so it's never a good idea to move them. The only exception is when there is more danger from staying inside the car such as leaking fuel or rapidly passing traffic than from risking paralyzing them. The girl appeared shaken but ok. I heard people crying and saying OMG over and over and yelling for blankets. I watched the boy being helped out of the car and saw an entire side of his face covered in blood. He was visibly shaken and most likely had a concussion from the impact. There was a Caucasian man around late 30's there helping during the entire scene. He was so helpful to the victims. The sun was setting, but still bright enough for the man to hold his hand above the boy's eyes. He later carried the girl to another car after she received treatment at the scene. The same van that I passed was parked ahead of the car offering assistance. I'll always wonder if these people knew each other or if they were just as concerned as I was. Had I not had my Daughter with me that day, I'd been right there with them. I was afraid she'd be scared if she lost sight of me or I'd be in trouble for leaving her in the car. It's not like I could take her with me...
Once I was sure that they seemed to be handling the situation well, I shifted my attention over to the other car. I realized then that my focus had been on the black one. I took a moment to ask myself why and realized that I was angry at them. Angry for flying up that ramp and angry for hitting the car and causing this mess. Part of me was so angry I didn't care if they needed help or not, but I realized that they are human also. They are also innocent until proven guilty. Although their approach speed didn't fit 'accidental' due to driving up an incline, I had second thoughts towards my anger. What if they passed out or had had a heart attack? It's possible. I had a suspicion it was drinking due to the way the wreck happened and stereotypically from returning from Bowling Green (a wet town; Glasgow is moist).
I watched the other car as the passenger descended onto the ground. It was a champagne Oldsmobile Aurora from what I could see. He was Caucasian, tall and skinny with a shaved head. He was on his hands and knees and very visibly shaken. The driver was a larger Caucasian male with tattoos and no shirt. Only baggy green shorts and shoes. He was tanned and blood was splattered from his head down to and covering his shorts. He was aimlessly walking around and in conversation with the sheriffs and police on the scene. I assumed then, that my instinct was right. They were focusing more on him than on the black car. Several minutes later, he was escorted to an ambulance and then to the back drivers seat of the sheriff's car closest to me. I watched irritated as the guy sat on a cell phone talking the remainder of the cleanup.
There was a Ford SUV behind me. I saw the driver look at me a couple times while I was taking photos. I began to be slightly self-conscious, but pushed it aside. Finally the worst of the scene had calmed down enough for me to motion a sheriff to my car. I was a witness and knew they'd need a statement. I wasn't sure if anyone else had actually seen the wreck, so I wanted to provide what information I could. He took my contact information and witness statement and I asked him how things were. He told me, it would be some time before we could move. They were going to have to bring in a helicopter for the victims. Seeing the car behind me watching again, I thought I'd let them know what I'd learnt. I told them. They were understanding, but like me were starting to want to go home. They were male and female with a child in the back. He wasn't too thrilled with the situation and like many on the road that night, they were on the way to a graduation in town. They informed me their car wouldn't start and assumed it was out of gas. I contacted the sheriff again and he eventually returned with gas from one of the fire trucks. We told him how awesome he was and thanked him. I talked with that family several times before they finally had someone come and pick the child and woman up for the graduation leaving him to drive out. The sheriff later managed to get him back on the road first.
Suddenly the helicopter appeared. It landed on the overpass bridge. Lorna was really excited. Like her, I was enjoying the close proximity. It was a very unique sight. I agreed with a man standing nearby when he said, "Well that's something you don't see everyday". A sheriff must've had the same thought, since he was also photographing the helicopter. The driver turned out to be a Caucasian woman. She was assisted onto a stretcher with a neck brace and the bleeding boy was taken away the same way. I never saw anyone else treated or taken from the scene. If they were, it was discretely done.
After a few minutes the helicopter left the way it came. One by one the ambulances returned home or to the hospital and the cleanup began. One firefighter was pouring oil-dry on the path made by the car that flew up the ramp. I asked him, "Do you know if he was drinking?" He looked at me awkward and I realized, as I suspected, that he couldn't tell me. I told him, "I guess you can't tell me." He looked at me as if to confirm, motioned with his head and said, "Well, look where he is now [the back of the sheriff car]." I told him, "That's why I had that suspicion. I was the one who was in front of them [motioning to the black car]. I saw the entire thing. They barely missed me..." He eventually finished and left.
I watched the men working together to sweep up the glass, debris and oil-dry. The comradery of the police, responders and citizens assisting was very encouraging to witness. The entire scene was disturbing and the rush of adrenaline left me shaky for most of the night, but I was so thankful that we were ok and that I was allowed to witness another moment where humans show such capacity for compassion.
See the rest of the photos here on my main website.
On way home heading out HWY 90. A Champagne (light gold) Oldsmobile Aurora not slowing ascending exit ramp as I passed. Saw approaching in time to speed up to protect me and my Daughter. Male Aurora driver missed me, hit a black Chevrolet Impala (Cumberland Co.) directly behind me. Watched it in the rear-view. The impact spun Impala 360 onto median. The Aurora crossed 4 lanes, stopped facing Glasgow, in grass beside Edmonton entrance ramp. I hurried to JR Foods to turn around while calling 911 on my cell. Twice they lost me connecting me to Glasgow PD. I finally got through. Used my car to stop traffic. Impala occupants injured. Told victims I'd called 911 and offered first aid. Assistance declined, but was thanked for calling and returning. Young male teenager passenger was bleeding from head. Family assisted him to ground (bad idea!) with blankets to cover and assisted with bleeding. Adult female driver remained in car. GPT, Sheriff and firefighters at scene; multiple ambulances. I gave a witness statement. Young female teenager was limping-treated at scene and carried to another car by adult male. Boy and woman in Inpala placed on stretchers and helicopter landed on overpass. Transported both away from scene. Adult male driver of Aurora was shirtless, walking with blood splattered on body and pants, with GPT and Sheriff. Later was placed in back of Sheriff car where remained. Male adult Aurora passenger treated. Wrecker removed wrecked cars. Traffic was stopped from Phillips Gas to 90 curves. Oil-dry was strewn. Glass and oil-dry was swept up. Cars allowed to leave. There are rumors on Topix that there was a death, but I never saw anyone dead, unless ambulance took someone discretely. I asked a firefighter if the Aurora driver had been drinking. He looked awkward about discussing it. All he could say was 'look where he's at [back of sheriff car]' and went back to work.