Miracles happen

Last night I saw one of the scariest things in my life.

My lovely wife and I were travelling southbound on 99 last night. When we reached Livingston,at about the Winton overpass, I saw a car moving with massive speed and trailing smoke on coming north on the southbound side. I screamed to my lovely wife to watch out, and as she started breaking we watched the speeding car slide of of sight behind the overpass we were approaching, and then to our utter horror, we watched it as it was launched through the air over the overpass, landing hood first in the “triangle”, before rolling a couple of times before coming to a stop, about 150 ft away from the overpass.

This car had driven at great speed along the wrong side of the freeway, had gone up the grass embankment on the other side of the overpass paralell to the on ramp, missing vehicles entering the freeway, then it had flown over the overpass, missing those waiting in traffic.

As we watched this happen, I felt ill. I told my wife to call 911 and I ran to the vehicle not knowing what I would be finding. The vehicle was about 30ft from where it had impacted nose first, but had rolled, and landed the correct way up, with the wheels on the ground. The engine had been ejected and was on fire about 15ft in front of what was left of the hood and front of the car. The rear of the car was flattened, and there was debris all over the place.

As I got there, I realised that I was the first on the scene. The accident was like something out of a movie, and I was extremely nervous about what I would. I knew that unlike the movies, no-one was going to walk out of this one. I first approached the passenger side, and looked in the car, and saw no-one. The few guys running down the embankment on the other side were shouting to me that the driver was out of the car on the other side.

As I rounded the trunk, I could not believe it. The driver had opened the door, and taken off his seatbelt, but was still alive. I honestly cannot explain to you how impossible this seemed. Obviously he was going to be pretty messed up with internal injuries, and from my past training in emergency situations I knew the best thing for us to do is to have him not move whilst the paramedics were called for.

Luckily a County Sherrif was in the vicinity and by his account saw a small part of the incident unfurl. He was of course quickly on the radio, and help was called for.

As I looked around, I realized that the engine was still on fire, and was now causing a grass fire which was starting to spread. I had been screaming for a fire extinguisher, but in the meantime, 3 of us just began throwing dirt on the engine, and the grass that was on fire. Eventually a member of the public provided us with an extingusher which my fellow helpers passed on to me to put out the fire. Engine fires can be nasty, as even after the fire is out, the engine is still extremely hot, and can ignite hot gases and fuels that are still leaking from the engines. This happened a few times last night.

At one point the Sherrif was attempting to investigate the engine to make sure it was out, and for some reason deemed it necesary to put his face within a few feet of the leaking manifold. I strongly “urged” him not to do this, explaining why it was a bad idea to put your face within a couple of feet of extremely hot metal, and gasoline. I actually think I shouted at the guy, but I had already seen the thing reignite a couple of times.

The paramedics and first-responders arrived, and started taking care of the driver. I did not interrupt the medics to ask questions, but I can only imagine he had sustained some major internal injuries. I hope he survives, we will just have to see. Just before the driver was taken away, I briefly spoke to the local police asking if they wanted us to stay for witness statements. They declined, as the Sherrif would be be able to fill them in, which my lovely wife and I actually found a little unlikely given his location when the accident occurred – but there we go.

I was stood at the end with on of the other guys who had helped out, and whilst all i could mutter were expletives, he turned and said, “Ya know, I don’t know whether you are religous, but this really is a miracle”. He is right, its a mircale he didn;t hit anyone on South Bound 99. Its a miracle he didn’t hit anyone on the one ramp, its a miracle he didn’t hit anyone driving on the overpass, and its a miracle he survived the whole event to be taken to a hospital. The last miracle will be this guys survival.

1 Comment »

  1. Stuart Said,

    July 30, 2007 @ 6:13 am

    The local paper here in Merced has a short piece about it, but they obviously do not know the full story.

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