“Oh no.”, I thought. “This could be bad; really bad.” Those words echoed in my mind as I started braking and steering the car to the shoulder of the road.
True story: Laura and I, along with our oldest and youngest kids, were driving along the interstate this past weekend. As we topped a small hill, we saw it.
There, blocking both southbound lanes, was a jackknifed vehicle. The late-model Suburban was pulling an airstream camper. The driver had lost control sending the camper fishtailing across both lanes of the interstate, eventually slamming them both into a guardrail.
The Suburban turned sideways while the airstream pushed forward. When the two eventually came to rest, glass had been shattered and metal had been crumpled. It looked bad, though it could have been worse.
First on the Scene
We were the first to arrive on the scene. As my oldest son and I got out of our vehicle, I began going through a mental checklist. What do we have with us? Is the scene secure? If we have to move injured people, where should we put them? Laura stayed with our 5 month old in our vehicle and called 911.
As I’ve written in prior posts, Laura and I keep quite a bit of emergency gear with us in our vehicles. We have first aid kits and tire repair kits; we have water, food, and emergency supplies. We even have mini air compressors.
But we were not in one of our vehicles. We had exchanged vehicles with with my mother for the week and we were in her car. Fortunately her car is almost as we’ll stocked as either of ours. And, my son and I both had our 72-hour backpacks with us.
There was a couple in the Suburban; they were probably in their mid-80s. Both were understandably rattled, but neither were physically harmed. The bloody scene I’d imagined when I first saw the collision hadn’t happened. Thank goodness. But I’m sure there were plenty sore the next day, though.
After ensuring that they were alright, we looked at the vehicle. No fuel was leaking. The driver warned us of 80 pounds of propane in the front of the airstream; we able to get to that and turn the nozzle off. We checked the canisters to make sure that they weren’t leaking.
I kept talking to the couple to calm them. I asked questions about where they’d been and where they were going. Anything to help take their minds off their experience. We gave them water bottles from the get-home bag to help calm them (We first asked questions to make sure there weren’t any internal injuries and cautioned them to just sip the water).
The man gave us a pretty good scare. After we had taken control of the situation, he began looking pale; his demeanor changed. I thought he was going to have a heart attack or pass out. I began thinking about the CPR training I’ve had; 30 compressions to 2 breaths. That’s what I’d learned. Fortunately, he didn’t have a heart attack or pass out.
It Pays to be Prepared
All things considered, it ended very well. No one was injured. The Suburban and airstream may have been totaled but they can be replaced. The couple was delayed in getting to their destination, but at least they lived to tell the tale.
It felt good to be able to offer assistance to someone in need, to be prepared to help. Having a well stocked get-home kit was reassuring. Having taken some hands-on wilderness first-aid courses, Laura and I felt that we could offer some assistance if there was a need.
The situation underscored to us just how quickly a normal situation can change. One minute the couple was having a nice conversation while driving south. A mere few seconds later and their world was turned up side down.
It also underscored in our minds the importance of being prepared. Not only for our own sake but to be able to offer help to others that may need it.
Speaking of which, I’m going to add a few things to our first-aid kits. Some additional compression bandages would be nice to have. You just never know.