Last week I went home for a few days to my parents’ house in Sleepy Hollow, New York, about a two-hour drive from Wilkes-Barre.
Near the tail end of the journey, I came upon a head-on collision. Driving by, in that one short moment, I was faced with a few choices. As I recounted the story to my friends and family, they shared mixed reactions and offered what they would have done in that situation.
After reading this column, I hope you’ll share what you would do in this situation – or what you did if you have been in that situation.
I was traveling alone late Thursday night along Bear Mountain Parkway, a winding two-lane road where street lights are few and cell service is minimal. As I navigated the dark road, I spotted lights that didn’t seem like they were from a construction zone nor did the pattern resemble lights from cars or motorcycles.
I slowed down and saw that a silver passenger car had crossed the double yellow line and collided head on with a white transport van. Both cars were totalled. Airbags deployed, glass and other car parts were everywhere. No emergency vehicles were at the scene, but some passers-by were.
I had a second to decide my next move: Continue home or stop?
I have no emergency training, don’t know CPR and I don’t even have a first aid kit in my car.
I put on my hazard lights and asked one of the guys if there was anything I could do.
“I’m not really sure, but there’s a female in the other car who keeps saying she has to go to the bathroom,” he answered.
OK. I have experience with bathroom breaks in nontraditional spaces, maybe I can help.
I walked to the smashed car. A young woman sat crying in the driver’s seat. A man was holding her head with both of his hands, keeping her neck and back straight.
She begged, “Please, I have to go to the bathroom.”
I chimed in, “I can take her.”
To which the man holding the woman’s neck yelled, “We can’t move her. We don’t know what’s wrong with her.”
I stepped back. Maybe there wasn’t anything I could do. So, should I stay? Or leave?
The man, attending to the woman asked her if there was someone she wanted to call. She tried to call her boyfriend through her car’s Bluetooth but, either because of too much damage or the bad cell service, calls kept dropping.
“Can someone call someone for her?” Should I volunteer? Or pretend I didn’t hear?
Her iPhone was handed to me and as I scrolled through her contacts, it dawned on me — I have to call this woman’s loved ones at 2:30 a.m. and tell them she was in a horrible accident.
I called her boyfriend, Alex, several times. No answer.
I noticed “home” was recently called.
As the phone rang, I imagined my parents’ phone ringing. My mom would most likely answer and then need medical attention if she received the news I was about to deliver.
The girl’s father answered.
“Hi, my name is Sarah. I’m calling to let you know your daughter has been in a pretty bad car accident. She’s OK, she’s conscious and talking and there’s no blood or anything but the car is pretty bad.”
“Which daughter?” He asked frantically.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know her name, but her boyfriend’s name is Alex.”
That cleared it up. Mom and Dad now knew which of their daughters was in an awful car crash and was surrounded by strangers.
“Do you want to come here or should I tell her you’ll meet her at the hospital?” I asked
“We’re in Texas,” he said.
I repeated that she appeared to be OK and we were waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I told him I’d call back with an update.
Back to Alex.
When he answered, I gave him the same speech.
“I’m sorry, but who are you?” he asked.
I explained who I was, how I got there, and repeated the scenario.
“Oh, my God” was all he could say. With that, he was on his way to the hospital (he had about an hour drive).
The ambulances and police officers finally arrived.
I called both parties and gave updates, handed the girl’s phone over to one of the EMTs in the ambulance and went back to my Jeep. With the professionals on site, I’d only be in the way.
So, I ask again: What would you have done if you drove by the scene of an accident and no emergency vehicles were there yet?
I thought I did the right thing, and probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep if I had continued on my way.
But, no good deed goes unpunished. As I climbed into my Jeep, I turned off my hazards and tried to roll over the engine.
Click, click, click, click.
Dead battery at 3 a.m.
Are. You. Kidding. Me.
Remember how I said I don’t carry a first aid kit? Well, I don’t carry jumper cables, either. One of the police officers must have a set.
“Just wait for the tow trucks; they’ll have some,” one cop said.
No other choice, I guess.
The first tow truck showed up. No jumper cables.
The second truck showed up. “Let me load up this car and then I’ll help you.”
The tow truck driver came to my rescue with a portable box and cables, attached blue to blue, red to red. Nothing.
He then maneuvered a 20-foot tow truck backwards, lined it up with my Jeep as traffic continued to back up. There were a ridiculous amount of cars on the road at 3 in the morning.
He hooked up the wires again and, after several attempts, I finally had a running engine.
And off to Mom and Dad’s I was, where I knew I would be safe and sound.
Sarah Haase is the arts and entertainment editor for the Times Leader. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter, @TLarts.
Editor’s note: What would you do? Tell us what you would have done in a situation like this. Or, if you’ve experienced a situation like this, let us know you did. Send your comments to [email protected] or [email protected] with “what would you do” in the subject line. You can also mail your comments to A&E Department 15 N. Main St. Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711. We may print some comments in next month’s auto section.