Near-Miss

The afternoon of December 28, 2016 could have been a horrible and possibly my very last afternoon. I credit my survival to my quick reaction, steering my car quickly into the lane for oncoming traffic when I saw the car coming in my direction hydroplane across the yellow line into my lane. The vehicle missed me by inches as it flew off the road to my right, then rolled at least once before landing on its top on the driver’s side. The undercarriage of the car faced the roadway, far enough below the road that cars on what had been my side of the road would have not seen it unless they were looking for it.

I pulled my car around the corner, jumped out, pulled out my cell phone, and ran toward the car—whose engine was still running—ten feet or more down the embankment.  As I got near enough to see the front windshield, I could tell it was shattered and partially torn away from the car. I called 911 and then climbed down the embankment toward the car, alongside another guy who stopped a minute or so after the accident. A woman’s voice suddenly screamed out for help. I responded that the police and rescue were on the way. She asked if we could help them out of the car (she said there were two of them; I could not see her, behind the shattered windshield, but I saw a young man who seemed to be sitting sideways on the passenger seat. He was calm and alert, but he was bleeding; blood dripped down the car’s roof from his head. He claimed to be cut but not badly injured. The young woman was terrified. She kept saying “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” We asked her to turn off the engine; she did. A few moments later, another man made his way down to the car, just as I was trying to pry the windshield from its frame with a pine branch; the glass gave way just a bit, but sent a mist of broken glass in my face. I had no gloves, so I couldn’t grab the glass with my hands without getting cut up. The woman again said, “I’m so sorry!” The latest arrival told her she had nothing to be sorry for, then suggested she pray with him. She responded that she was sorry that she almost hit another car head on and hoped the person in that car was okay. I told her I was that driver and she didn’t hit me and I was fine. I tried to calm her, but she was frantic and apologetic. She said, over and over again, “my father’s going to kill me and he’s never going to let me drive again.”

A police officer arrived and made his way down to the car. He determined immediately it was going to be impossible to get the people out of the car without help, so he radioed for the fire department and an ambulance. A fire truck with two firemen arrived a few minutes later, then another police car. Another fireman, who was off-duty, drove up and asked the others whether he needed to suit up; they said yes, we have two people trapped. So, he pulled off the side of the road and in no time he came back to the scene, fulled decked out in gear. Next, an ambulance arrived on scene. The firemen pulled equipment out of their truck and took it down to the car. By that time, I had gotten out of the way and was not in a position to see what they were doing.

As I was watching all this unfold, another car pulled up and two women got out and ran toward the scene. One of the women gasped and said “Oh no!” I assumed she was the mother of one or both of the car’s occupants. But a little later, I learned from her that the young man in the car was a homeless kid who they had taken into their home and the woman was his girlfriend.

There was nothing more I could do, so I headed toward my car. But I wanted to wait until the occupants of the car were rescued. So I stood at the corner, near my car, and waited. Shortly, I could see the male passenger standing outside the car. The fireman led him a few feet from the vehicle, then another one put a brace of some sort around the guy’s neck and the firemen slowly led him to the ambulance. Next, I saw the woman rising from behind the car. They led her to the ambulance, as well.

When I got back to my car, I decided to take a photo of the scene. Not a very good photo, I realize. This is the second time I’ve seen a car fly off the road at that intersection, which is just beyond a rather sharp curve. The last time, the guy driving was able to climb out of his car. I don’t know what can be done to make that intersection safer, but having seen pretty bad wrecks there twice and having heard about others in the same place, I think it’s time I ask the powers that be to explore options.

For those who know Hot Spring Village, the accident was at the intersection of Barcelona and the Castano Drive/Palisandro Drive intersection.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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