February 19, 2013

Lest We Forget - Part 1


On Saturday, February 9, 2013, my family and I were in a roll-over accident. Let me give you a couple of background points before I jump into the pics and videos.
  • The six of us were traveling in our 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan at about 40-50 mph.
  • My wife, Crystal, was driving and I was in the passenger seat. Our four sons, ages 1, 2, 5, & 7, filled up the seats behind us.
  • We were on our way to a hotel in SLC for a weekend stay-cation, so naturally our van was packed full of hotel necessities.
  • We also had a healthy quantity of recyclables in the van, which we had planned to drop off at my parents' house in West Jordan (since Tooele discontinued their recycling program). So, if our van looks like it was full of garbage, it's because it was.
  • The weather was cold and snowing, but not so much that we felt uncomfortable traveling in it. We had been driving at relatively normals speeds the whole day.
Now, the basic details of what happened:
  • When we entered the eastbound on-ramp of I-80 (in the left lane), our van began fishtailing to the right, so that the right side of our van was acting as the "front" of our vehicle. No amount of gas, brakes, or wheel maneuvering pulled us out. We were completely at the mercy of Nature.
  • As we traveled down the road, our van continued twisting to the left. This was especially terrifying because looming over the left side of the road was a small hill, which shot out of the ground at a dangerously steep slope. Both Crystal and I knew that if we slammed into that hill with the side of our van, the result would be catastrophic.
  • After about 5 seconds of "Oh, no!" the front passenger tire slipped onto the recessed shoulder. We never directly impacted the hill. We rolled up it. At least I think we did.
I originally thought I knew every detail of exactly how our van flipped along the hill and landed on all 4 tires again (facing the opposite direction), but after returning to the tow lot on Monday to examine the damage, I'm at a complete loss. The only thing I'm certain of now is that we achieved some serious hang-time, ricocheting off of random locations on all 6 sides of our van. My wife thinks we must have rolled completely over at least 2 times.

This picture shows the first impact point of our van. As you can see, our van "folded" over the edge of the road's shoulder. Our kindergartener, Dawsen, was in the middle-right seat. Remarkably, his only injuries were a few scratches on the left side of his face from flying debris. I suspect that this initial impact sent most of our stuff flying out the window. I'm also very surprised that the other two windows are still there. Unfortunately, this is the only shot I have of the front of the van. You can't see it because of the snow, but the front underside of the van is draping down in pieces. I've posted a short post-interview with Dawsen below:

This picture bewilders me. We obviously made solid impact above my wife's head, thus shattering the windshield and denting the frame above her door, but I'm at a loss regarding her side of the van. Her side-view mirror is missing and there are dents and scratches on her door, yet her window remains intact. I was also grateful that the sliding door window was unbroken, since our one-year-old, Dax, was sitting there. He was traumatized enough from the accident as it was. When we first entered the tow lot on Monday, Dax started trembling. The closer we got to the van, the more anxious he became. We had to keep a 5-foot buffer between him and the van because, if we got any closer, he'd start whimpering and crying. He remembers. He knows.

This picture shows Dallen (our 2nd grader) and Dawsen (our kindergartener). Dallen was sitting in the back left corner of the van, and sustained the worst injury of us all. You can see the dents on the frame between the 2 shattered windows, proving that this was another point of impact. When we hit that corner of the van, the left side of Dallen's head banged the steel seat belt loop. He now has a 4-inch goose egg above his left ear. All things considered, though, we'll gladly take that injury. This accident could have ended up so much worse.

This picture has an entertaining story to go along with it (you have to look for humor, even in trauma, right?). On the day of the accident, when our van stopped rolling and the screaming settled down, our 2-year-old, Duncan, started rattling off a hysterical account of his experience. He kept repeating the phrase, "We fell down in a circle," along with very specific details about applesauce. It wasn't until we returned to the van on Monday that we finally pieced this together. Right next to Duncan, still wedged between the window and the seat belt, was this 6-pack of applesauce. I imagine that during the accident, the applesauce was dancing in front of Duncan before catching in the seat belt. I'm glad he had a focal point, rather than watching the rest of his family whip around in front of him. We've tried to get Duncan to retell his story about the applesauce again (as you'll see in the interview below), but it was a one-time thing. The chocolate comments have since come to light, too, from our oldest son. Dallen said that one of the EMT's gave him a mini bar of chocolate, which he broke into pieces to share  with his brothers.

This picture shows Dallen's and Duncan's view from the back seat (the middle seats were moved down when the paramedics pulled everyone out of the van). This picture disturbs me for two reasons.
  1. Crystal has always been terrified that, should she experience a plane crash, she would be in the very back and have to watch what happens to everybody else before the carnage reached her. On a less gruesome scale, I believe that my four boys will have to endure more emotional scarring than Crystal and I because of their view of the accident. That vision would burn in my mind for the rest of my life.
  2. I didn't realize how close I came to a spinal injury. That dented roof combed my hair.

This picture doesn't look like much, except a bunch of recyclable garbage, but an important story goes along with it. Without a doubt, the worst part of the accident happened right after we stopped rolling. I glanced at Crystal to make sure she was alright, and she returned my stare with wide eyes. We both took a quick, frantic breath, then turned around to see the damage behind us. I've never been so terrified of seeing blood, broken limbs, motionless bodies, or the worst, missing people. Gratefully, all four boys were still safely bucked in their seatbelts/car seats, and screaming bloody murder. I've never been so happy to hear my kids cry.

These two pictures seem rather uninteresting, but they give a good perspective on the chaos which ensued during the crash. The rear view mirror moved halfway back the van, and all those white grocery bags full of recyclables were stashed behind the back seat. And, once again, there is the package of applesauce. A few white blankets were left in the van, too, which the paramedics had used to try and cover the windows. Personally, I didn't notice the cold very much. I had more important things on my mind. Good thing we have medical professionals to watch out for us.

(Stay tuned for Part 2, an emotional and detailed account of my entire experience from the day of the accident until now. I've been working on it for the past week, but it has been to emotionally overwhelming to attempt in such a short span of time. For now, at least you have the details of the accident.)


Konstanz Silverbow said...

My Dad actually saw the accident happen and was so worried abut the people inside the van. Knowing that you are all okay is such a relief.

Sending hugs and prayers towards your family!

Teri Harman said...

Oh my gosh, Terron! I got a little teary-eyed reading that. So scary! So glad you are all okay!

Linsey Jackson said...

My family was in a rollover in Parleys in 06. I can sadly and totally relate - they are terrifying and hard to get over. Its been nearly 7 years and I still have scary dreams about it. Its hard to not think about the "what-ifs" but they just always made me feel worse. The man that knocked us off the side actually passed away too. Its crazy how things can happen so quickly. Im so glad your little boys are ok and pretty much untouched!! They are adorable! I loved little Duncans version lol

Elsie Park said...

I teared up while reading your account, feeling fear and relief for you as if it had been me and my own family. SO GRATEFUL that all of you came out of it alive with only minor injuries. A testament to wearing safety belts.

Jennifer Griffith said...

Oh. My. Word. Terron! This is terrifying. I was bawling the whole time I read your matter-of-fact account of this wreck. I cannot BELIEVE how protected and blessed your family was. What a miracle borne of tragedy. Wow. All I can say is wow.

Grandmama and Gramps said...

I'm so glad you recorded them talking about this, good idea. Love you guys!!