We had been to town and had made it to the end of the road in good time to make it home. A busy day was seemingly coming to an early and civilized end.
But that was not to be.
As readers know, we have a very steep hill leading to the beach at the end of the road. When we arrived, there was a truck unloading at the bottom so we parked in a small lay-by half way down to allow them to finish. I took the opportunity to haul out two bags of road salt I had impulsively purchased in town to leave at that part of the hill. I figured the hill would get even slipperier than it was when we had departed earlier and the forecast for the next few days suggested preparation.
When the first truck departed the unloading area, we went down. The last few feet was getting icy but it was OK. We unloaded. As we were doing so another vehicle came to the same previous half-way lay-by and, doing as we had done, waited and did a bit of preparation for their unloading. Their preparation included donning some heavier gear for their longer trip home.
It was then that things went awry. I wrote a mutual friend last night to fill her in. The following is what I wrote with some extra fill-in:
L, the wife, was driving. We were at the bottom of the hill. They stopped at the half way point parking lot and got out to put on their heavier winter gear. But I guess L did not put the car in park. Maybe it was half-in and popped out. So, as they got out, it jumped forward and started to roll down the hill. I heard them yelling and watched as their car rolled a 1/4 of the way down and hit the stump on the slope on the east side.
I didn’t see her do it but L had leapt back half into the car and tried to save the day. The car still hit the stump on the east-side ditch. But, while getting in she either yanked the wheel or the stump caused the trajectory of the still moving vehicle to change. The car then caromed over the road to the west side and hit a boulder or something. By the second impact it was doing 20 km or near and was more than half way down the 100 foot slope.
Then it flipped.
And landed on the roof. L was flung out of the car from the still open driver’s side door onto the concrete ribbon strip with the door pinning her ankle and her face slammed into the pavement. She hit it like a sledge hammer. A lot of blood instantly started flowing onto the road.
The car miraculously stopped fifteen feet from our car and where we had been standing. At the second impact and just before it flipped, Sal and I leapt for the relative safety of the off-from-the-roadway pathway.
They had paused at that mid way point because we were already at the bottom unloading. We looked up when we heard the yelling, stood there for a second and saw the car careening down to towards us and so we leapt up the ramp leading to the path to the dock to get out of the way. When their car rolled, I was sure it would just somersault down and hit our car. THEN I saw L get virtually flung out and smashed with the car looming ready to roll over her. The open door had acted like a block and stopped the car from crushing her. Her ankle looked smushed. Her other leg was bent at an awkward angle. We ran over, rolled her over and decided that getting her out of there was the best move and drag-carried her over to the ramp.
I then called the Coast Guard on channel 16 with our always-present hand held VHF radio. There is no cell service in that area for miles around. VHF is the only way to ‘get out’.
The Coast Guard called the ambulance.
S and K showed up a few minutes later also ready to unload from a town day. C L and his brother N (they were in the first truck we had waited for) were already at the dock and they came back to help. P and N were headed up channel in their boat, heard my 16 call and they came over to the end of the road, too. As did D G who was already home but nearby and was called by another VHF listener. Within minutes we had the ambulance dispatched and L was on the ground wrapped up in everyone’s clothes.
With everyone, there must have been at least ten people on scene within fifteen minutes. Sal and I were first. L came dramatically to the scene a few minutes later.
And, from then on in, everyone pitched in to do what they could.
Then we all waited for two hours until the ambulance came. The police took 45 minutes but the ambulance seemed to take forever.
Their car is basically a write off.
We have their stuff (boots and crap). C took their food to his house Their boat is still at the dock. They are currently at the hospital. R (husband) wanted someone to go to the house*** (see epilogue) and turn on the lights….none of us thought that made any sense so we didn’t do it.
Anything you can do…..?
I don’t think so. Not tonight. They will likely be home tomorrow, next day for sure. L may need a bit of surgery ….we don’t know the exact extent of her injuries but her mouth took a helluva smack. And her forehead. She was FLUNG hard. But, after a few minutes, she was remarkably coherent and logical. But she WAS smacked onto frozen concrete as hard as anyone can be and still be alive. Had the car rolled one more turn she would have been crushed. And that is a 20+ degree slope. I really thought it was coming all the way down. The open door saved her.
The take-away for most of us was yet another reminder of how easily an accident can happen and, of course, the incredible response of the community when it does. In retrospect, we might have simply taken the chance, moved her into my car and taken her ourselves to the hospital but, like most people, we have been conditioned to leave it to the professionals and, of course, there may have been some other injury that our moving her would have exacerbated.
But – and it is a BIG BUT – this is not the city. It took too long for the ambulance. Our neighbour was starting to suffer MORE simply because of the cold. We managed to ‘do the right thing’ by the book but maybe NOT by the standards of common sense.
This is NOT a criticism of the ‘authorities’, the ‘professionals’ the ‘highly trained’ but, in truth, they are not as well trained in the circumstances we faced as the group of us were. The end of the road is a foreign element to the ‘professionals’. The ambulance driver was not as able as any of us to drive that part of the road. And, what takes me 45 minutes, took them 90. Our own group had people with first aid experience. We had already done the right thing – so far.
I am NOT saying we did the wrong thing to wait. BUT I am saying that, as a group, we may have to take a bit more responsibility for decision-making simply because of the distance and the possible conditions we are often in….
“Would you do it differently, then?”
Yes. L, herself, has extensive first aid training. She is tough, sane, competent and knowledgeable. Best of all, she is calm by nature and was soon coherent. And all of us know the road. Most of us have SUVs. In hindsight, I would have waited till she was settled (a decision in itself) and, if L thought she could be moved, we would have tried it gently. Had she urged us on, we would have transported her to the back of my Pathfinder (already at the bottom of the hill), and I would have simply driven her to MEET the ambulance.
I was carrying the VHF and our chainsaw. And we were also lucky to have let the ‘impulse’ make me buy salt. We were doubly lucky that one of the neighbours had a duvet. And, then the salt…..I have never bought road salt in my life. Total fluke. I have never carried a blanket in the car, either. But there will be some changes made along those lines for the future, I can assure you.
***EPILOGUE: They are home. They are in good spirits. And I was wrong (not for the first time!). One of their rescuers DID, in fact, go to the house and turn on the lights (they had a generator going that may have put in too much charge and ruin the batteries – it was the right thing to do).