karma

I was going south on route 751. Traffic was slow due to several construction vehicles. This is nothing unusual on this road. 751 is a long narrow winding road, with few passing areas, that connects Chapel Hill with Highway 64 by Apex near Raleigh, NC.

In a short passing zone, near the intersection with highway 64, a truck that was two vehicles ahead of me decided to pass. It was an odd place to do it since the passing zone was quite short, we were currently doing 50mph, a reasonable if not swift speed for that location, and most important, the truck that was pulling out to pass would not be able to see around the dump truck he was following.

Regardless, he did pull out to pass and not more than 80 yards away a car was coming towards him. Incredibly he did not slow, brake, swerve or do anything else to avoid the oncoming car. It was like he didn't even see it. I saw it. The fellow in front of me did, so did the car behind me. We all slowed and pulled over to the side to avoid what we anticipated would happen next. And it did happen.

The woman in the car traveling north, the one in the correct lane, hesitated a moment when the truck pulled out then swerved to the side of the road. Unfortunately there was no shoulder--only a grassy ditch. She almost immediately lost traction and control of her vehicle. She skidded sideways and the truck impacted the passenger side of her car. The impact was sufficient to knock the front axle and wheels off of her car and flip the car onto its side. Her car then slid off the road, down into the ditch at the side of the road, still on its side. The truck that hit her also turned onto its side but remained on the road after sliding 20 yards or so.

I was the first one to get to the woman's car and amazingly she was lucid, oriented and coherent. The driver's side window was broken and the woman had blood in her hair but wasn't bleeding profusely. I asked her if anything felt broken but told her that if possible it would be best if we didn't move her and that she should keep her head as still as possible. She told me that it hurt quite a bit but only seemed to be her head. She didn't seem shocky but probably was--her pupils looked good but a concussion was a strong possibility. The woman asked me to call her mother, whom she was on her way to visit, to let her know what had happened. By this time a woman had come near the car with a cell phone and I had her talk to the woman and call the mom.

In the meantime another person had called 911 and was directing traffic on the road since only one side of the road could be used due to the truck on its side blocking a lane. Given the circumstances it was amazing how controlled the situation was. However the sight of the woman was quite sobering. She was wearing her seat belt, and was suspended by the belt since her side of the car was up. Her head was unsupported but we didn't dare do anything in case there was a spinal injury. The Fire Department started arriving about 5 minutes after the 911 call--pretty amazing for such a rural spot. The first to arrive was a fellow in his private truck but 2 full rigs arrived soon after and about 8 minutes later another 2 trucks as well as an ambulance. The police didn't arrive until about 40 minutes later--at that time the woman had just been removed from the car. That took quite a while since they had to be careful about hauling her through the window with her possible head and neck injuries. By then most of the firemen were gone but one crew remained in case the car caught on fire and the ambulance was still there so the woman could give the statement to the police officer. I was there to give a statement to the police as a witness as was the couple that was in the car behind the woman who was hurt. It was the wife that called the woman's mother and she later called the mom back to tell her which hospital that the ambulance would be taking the woman. A very nice couple. Watching and waiting with them for the 45 minutes we were there was an interesting bonding episode.

The three of us witnesses discussed the "accident" quite a bit as we were waiting for the police to arrive. The guy that had caused it didn't seem to be injured at all but had slurred speech and an odd affect. He was apparently a diabetic and might have had a blackout. His driving seemed fine--was behind him for several miles--until he tried to pass the dumptruck and his lack of any type of reaction to the oncoming car was too strange to attribute to anyone with normal cognitive processes. At first I thought he was drunk, but he didn't show any signs of impaired driving until the ill fated attempt to pass. It was very odd.

Two side notes, I had my digital camera with me in my truck and several times I thought about taking pictures but each time I felt too guilty to do anything about it. I don't see how reporters can emotionally handle that sort of thing. Just thinking about taking the picture really bothered me. The other thing was a comment by the wife to her husband (the other witnesses) that they were right behind the woman who was hit. It took a second to hit me, but then it came crashing down. This really nice couple could have been killed had the fellow in the truck waited a few more seconds before trying to pass. Scary shit! There was no place to go on this narrow road. No way to avoid the collision if you were the car. Fate. Karma. Whatever. Too fucking random, y'know?

Comments

David said…
whoa, sometimes real life is to be seen not documented and then the descriptive skills ( with which youare gifted) come to life in bringing us with you on the fateful night drive, here from the wreck that is meet n greet. Peace
Ravvy said…
yep that has to be one of my all time pet peeves with drivers on the road... they're so in the 'zone' they dont think about the reprocussions of what could happen to the other drivers on the road if they stuff up...

im really glad your okay tho!

Hello from Michele's too btw!
Jean-Luc Picard said…
That was a well-written post; I felt I was there.

Michele sent me here.
cyndy said…
I am grateful that woman didn't die right there..and that you were there to help her. It's hard to say what was going on with the truck driver...but being a paralegal for an ins. co. (18 years now)..I have seen so much. How totally sad this whole scene is and how totally unnecessary, but for judgment and mistakes. here from michele cause you visited me from michele!
Shane said…
You're a good man Charlie Brown!

amazing story - and an odd feeling to know something terrible will happen and then see it unfold
srp said…
Here from Michele.
Glad you were there to help. I hope they figure out what was wrong with the driver of the truck. If he had a medical problem, he shouldn't be driving commercially.
Well written, I did feel as if I were there. Heart pounding, holding my breath.
Carmi said…
If I ever find myself in a similar situation - and I pray that the vagaries of fate don't align in that manner, but you never know - I hope to encounter guardian angels like you and that couple.
utenzi said…
The worst thing about it, Carmi, was how little we could actually do. With her head getting the damage we just had to leave her there though we kept one person next to her at all times so she'd not feel abandoned.
colleen said…
I liked the way everyone pulled together to do what was needed. I don't know what the driver could have been thinking. It makes me feel how fragile it all really is and how random it seems.
rashbre said…
A terrible scene, starting almost out of nothing. I hope all will be well.
Teresa said…
That was chilling, Dave. It only takes a couple of seconds and all changes.
RennyBA said…
Hello, Michele sent me and I'm glad because you have a great blog! Hello from Norway and have a great end to your week:-)
Michelle said…
Jeepers Dave, very emotional stuff. How tragic, but as others have mentioned it was fortunate that yourself and the couple were there to give statements :o)
Thumper said…
8 years ago we flipped our truck over on an icy North Dakota highway, and I have never forgotten the people who stopped to help...that woman will always remember you for being there for her. You don't laways have to be able to do something to be doing something... She was so lucky you were there, really.
TamWill said…
When you witness near death experiences, it puts things in a whole new perspective.

I am glad you were there for her. She must have been terribly frightened and your being there took her mind off it a bit.

I remember being in an accident with three of my children. I am thankful that someone was there to help.
kenju said…
What a hard thing that must have been to witness, Dave; to know what would happen and be powerless to do anything about it. I am glad you weren't hurt!
Diane Mandy said…
I am so happy you weren't hurt!!! Your story brought a pain to my hart, however. I lost a friend in a traffic accident on that very road about five years ago. :-(

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