First on scene @ major head on collision

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Staff member
Dec 14, 2002
New Jersey
Wife, child and I were taking a trip to the beach today in the 240D, and the beach we were going to requires a good distance on a very rural two lane, 55mph road. The road has passing zones and a good number of curves that are blind due to their arc and the heavy woods along them. We came upon the accident and were the first non-witness car on scene in our direction. As we rolled up, the driver of one of the vehicles flopped out of his car and fell down on the grass. The three main vehicles were a late model Cadillac, a Chevy Aveo 4dr, and an older GMC Sonoma (S-10 clone) pickup. The Cadillac had a 70 year old man in it, there was no trunk and the contents were all over the road. The Chevy had a family of four in it. The Sonoma had one younger male driver. He was the one who flopped out. They were calling in medevac for him, and it appeared he may have been paralyzed. Myself and one other person literally ripped the door off the Cadillac to help that guy. He then said he was ok (we weren't going to get him out) and left him. The guy who flopped in the ground was being treated for shock but not moved/touched. The family of four broke my heart. All four walked away. The two kids were crying, the one had a huge seatbelt burn on her chest. The mother was horribly shook up. Their car, the Aveo, had no discernible hood, engine, radiator (it was somewhere under the car steaming), etc. What impressed me the most, was the Aveo. The Cadillac was bigger, was hit in the side and rear somehow, but the Aveo must have done the full head in with the Sonoma at 45mph or so. To compare, the Aveo had no hood, the engine was under the car somewhere, and the doors all operated (though bent), the trunk opened up, and the cabin was in solid shape. The Sonoma on the other hand, could be seen that the dashboard was in the seat back of the passenger front seat. I'm sure the other side was only held off by the force going into the driver (who fell out possibly paralyzed). As an owner of an S-10, I know obviously it is very many generations of design older than the other cars, and wasn't the highest safety rated vehicle to begin with. Still, I'd have expected something different from a body on frame vehicle in terms of how the frame vs the cabin and engine would move. Scary stuff. Though the Cadillac guy was dazed, he was perfectly ok (at least by claim), just stuck. Tons of airbags deployed and all glass was shattered. I have to say I was impressed with the Aveo. The child seats (one strap type and one booster) were still in place, the kids were safe, the parents walking. It really did its job as designed, thank goodness. The front looked worse than this one, but I'm pretty sure the driver didn't sling his head out the folding driver door like in this:
One of the wheels on the Sonoma was literally folded in half. There was a random lower control arm and wheel/tire attached, laying on the side of the road between the Aveo and Sonoma, and the Cadillac. Not sure what vehicle it was launched from. Note how the body forces it's way into the driver front wheel in is test. That's exactly why the wheel,was folded over on itself in the Sonoma (worse than in this video):
I drive a lot. There are many years where I do 20k miles. I've never encountered an accident like that. I've never smelled an airbag or seen it still smoking from release. I take safety seriously, drive with lots of space and controlled speed. Fortunately I also try to minimize time in two lane head on roads. I'm still shook up over this, especially seeing the guy fall from his truck, and seeing the family in such a state of scare and disbelief. It could have been us. While I've been rear ended at ~45 mph in a w123 Mercedes with high level of safety and no injuries, I was rear-ended (the at fault driver crushed my full quarter and then pushed me out of the way and smashed the two cars in front of me)... Head on is another story, a scary one. While the w123 is a very safe car, IMO, it's not the same basis as more modern vehicle designs, fwiw. Though they look to do pretty well here:
Driving is dangerous. The safety improvements in new cars are really wonderful. I'm sure there was some driver error, but who and what I can't speculate... But it can happen to anyone. Be alert, be safe.
I know two family members who have been in near death/ paralyzation (sp?) accidents in S10s or Sonomas. Neither truck fared well.
Scary stuff for sure. I was involved in an accident where an 18 wheeler rear ended a stopped sedan at highway speeds. My truck was damaged by the debris of the accident. It was a two lane highway, and the 18 wheeler hit the car when the front of my truck was even with the front of the car. 3 of the 4 people in the car were killed. I had to travel back (it was out of state) for the trial, I was a witness for the state. It was the scariest thing I've ever seen, and it was about 15 years ago. Praying for all those involved!
I drive for work, so I've pulled up on quite a few accidents before any emergency personnel were there. Twice I ended up doing CPR on victims who unfortunately didn't make it.
Proof that your life can change in an instant. Travel safe. Thanks for posting this, we all need that reminder now and then how life can and does change.
That will stick with you for a long time. Any idea who caused it? If there was a head on, where does the Cadillac come into play?
I was a police officer. Worked many accidents. To this day, I still have nightmares about the first accident I ever worked. Body parts everywhere. A most gruesome scene. I was tasked with picking up body parts and putting them in plastic bags. Worst day of my career.
I was once driving in an area close to JHZR2 and saw a road shut down for about a mile.. From the other side of a highway. A motorcycle (or half of it) was laying on the road, in front of a bunch of police cars. The ambulance people were walking up to a white sheet that they had draped across the road, some distance from it. I can only imagine what the people that have to see this feel. And, just maybe, its why some cops are so "tough" on violations. As to the S-10s comments, the first generation of the larger 4-door SUV was an all-metal sturdy vehicle, all metal like the kind that gets baking blazing hot in the summer sun, and it is very heavy, which both helps and hurts in an accident. The two-doors, 1995s or later and pickup trucks, I can't speak for those. Probably not the safest vehicle due to the thin doors etc but reasonably safe.
called to haul bike parts. smell of alcohol in the air at about a mile out. the rider was a dear friend i I learned at the scene. He closed the bar, 3/4mile solo dragrace, and hit a tractor trailer broadside in the front driver, tractor backing off highway. i still dont like to think about it. the bike was parts, speedo stuck at the full barried mark. the thinker sat one the fog line intacted 1000feet down the road, all that faired, the rest was bag and pressure/steam clean. I am with you bubbatime. body on full frame is fatel......... I have seen unibody hit hard, roll, ect. and walk away. I dont want to ever experience on first hand ever. but if i do I hope it in the best unibody.
I hate hearing things like this - always makes my blood boil. I can't help but think that this was caused by someone being impatient or maybe even road-raging, possibly passing at high speed though one of the blind corners the OP described! JHZR2, good on you for stopping and helping. Many might have prioritized getting to the beach over helping others.
Originally Posted By: bubbatime
I was a police officer. Worked many accidents. To this day, I still have nightmares about the first accident I ever worked. Body parts everywhere. A most gruesome scene. I was tasked with picking up body parts and putting them in plastic bags. Worst day of my career.
Why didn't the Medical Examiner's Office worker pick up the body parts ? Unfortunately you had to do it.
Originally Posted By: Gasbuggy
That will stick with you for a long time. Any idea who caused it? If there was a head on, where does the Cadillac come into play?
Good question. We were trying to put it together in our heads. I suspect it was either a failed passing attempt that ended up going head on in a curve, and perhaps one car slammed on the brakes and swerved (Cadillac), then the next two slammed head on? It was a very rural road, but there was a blind driveway going somewhere (there are lots of farms along the road). The other thought was that perhaps one of the vehicles, most likely the Cadillac, was backing out and didn't look hard enough at the traffic pattern...
In contrast I witnessed a 2000 era Civic get t-boned by a 2008~ ford escape. Both in the Civic died. If anyone owns a Civic from 1993-2004, for your own safety get rid of it.
That's a terrible sight to come upon. I've stopped a few times being on scene before anyone else but luckily nothing that severe. One of the most important subaru features...the body/frame structure is very strong.
I came up on an accident scene with a car upside down and smoking. Police car right up behind it. It had just happened obviously. So I ask the officer if anyone needed help. He said, " yeah one of them needs a while lot of help". Well I go to the drivers side of the car and there's a young fella hanging upside down. Checking for a femoral pulse. Nothing. Got my light shines upon him.. he's dead with his cerebral cortex sticking out from his forehead. Fixed and dilated. I get up and walk away shaking my head. His 3 buddies asking if he's all right. I just shook my head. The officer who was [censored] off told them, " no your buddy is dead". I believe this young fellas head smashed the pavement when the car barrel rolled 4-5 times while taking a corner at a stop light at 60 mph. I can still see that young fella in my mind right now typing this. His brain looked exactly what I saw in my anatomy and physiology books. This police chase started after these WORLD champions started a fight at a local Walmart. These champions decided to follow those guys back to their apartment. The law was called and this started the police chasing them. Foolish. And stupid. A young 18 yr old kid died for nothing. Absolutely nothing.
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Brings to mind something I read in high school. A magazine article quoted a highway patrolman as saying that he had never unbuckled a dead man. That quote taught me that my chances of surviving an accident are much higher if I wear a seatbelt. Still didn't change my behavior. Then my sister rolled her car 3 times over, driving 70 mph on the freeway (it rolled over after it moved off the freeway). Car was totaled (admittedly not too hard with a subcompact) but she walked away without a scratch. She was wearing her belt. From that point onward, I've worn belts. All the time.
Yes, wear those belts. I came up on a Taurus on I40, still intact but obviously rolled over, glass broken a few doors open. It Came to rest in the fast lane on its wheels. All three ocupants ejected and dead on the road surface near the car. Early morning single car roll over....police wrote it up as driver fell asleep.
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