Sunday, March 2, 2008

Be safe out there, kids.

On my way home from my cousin's place last night, from enjoying a wonderful new SNL episode - I was seconds away from being involved in a multi-car collision on North-bound I-15 in Escondido. It was around 1:10 AM when I suddenly saw a LOT of brake lights, and then motionless cars ahead of me. I think I may have noticed at that moment that there were flames rising from one of the vehicles, but before I had time to comprehend this image, I watched another vehicle, not 100 yards up the road, collide with the first set of cars, sending this one flying through the air with sparks cascading all around it. I did my best to pull over slowly, and noticed that there were already a hand-full of people standing in the road waving for me to not hit them - I think they were in less danger than they thought, because I was pulling over to stop, but that didn't mean every motorist was. I hopped out of my car, leaving hazard lights on, and tried to help slow down traffic, but that's hard to do while remaining safe, so I climbed up on the guardrail where I'd be relatively safe from any on-coming vehicles, while I and some others tried to wave at cars to signal for them to slow down. It was pretty scary to see some cars still flying down the road at 80 MPH at this point, but amazingly, no other cars collided after this point.

So then I tried to get everyone off the road and move up the road, ahead of the scene, so as to avoid any by-stander injuries that might occur behind the scene. Then, once things were a bit calmer, I helped usher some traffic through to let some of the congestion up and clear the scene so emergency vehicles would have room to come in.

At this point, everyone was very concerned with the one car that was now entirely engulfed in flames. "Does anyone have a fire extinguisher!?!?" Someone was yelling. "Forget it, bro!" someone else responded. "That car is done! Stay away from it! No one's in it - we just need to move away from that thing!" It was lighting up the highway against the headlights of 6 lanes of stopped cars behind it. We all got to the slow lane and off to that side of the road when I noticed a group of guys talking to a girl who had just been taken off the road. She was young - only 19 - and had some blood matted on her face, but she seemed okay. I came to find out that she had been driving the car that flipped over and she was trying frantically to reach her boyfriend or her mother on her cell phone.

Suddenly, one of the bystanders identified himself as a Medic, and he took control of her situation. He asked her of she knew her name, how old she was, what the date was and if she knew where she was. She seemed to rattle off this information better than even I could at the moment, so she seemed to be okay and certainly not drunk - just rattled. I helped him move her to the bed of a pick-up truck so they could examine her when the ambulance arrived. She kept yelling about how she had just gotten the car two days ago and that her dad is going to kill her, but the group around her tried to calm her down.

All in all, no one was seriously hurt and the road was cleared in about 45 minutes. But it was certainly scary to see how close we can all come to disaster at less than a moment's notice.

Here's some pictures I snapped with my cell phone after the chaos was under control.

These first two are of the car fire being put out by the fire department:

This is the car that had collided and flipped, from which the young girl was able to escape relatively unharmed.

And this is just some of the action as things were winding down. The guy in the foreground in that last shot is the medic who helped the girl. you can see shattered glass and random debris all over the ground. It was everywhere. And the bluish car in the distance on the right was the one that had been on fire.

The moral of the story is this: Don't drive fast - that's what the girl did and she's lucky to be alive after this. And just be vigilant. It was certainly a big eye-opener to me.

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