Freak Blizzard and the Car Crash (Pics)

I’d just returned home from a long month in Louisiana where I’d finished my interview, training and some “work over” for the helicopter company that I’m working for now. I was looking forward to the long break because I’d been gone for so long with HeliExpo, CPAC, and Guyana – it was time to be home for a little bit. I called up my Grandfather in St. Maries and went out to spend the weekend at his place.

Having just spent the last few months in warm, sunny, tropical areas – and since it was April and in theory “spring time” I wasn’t expecting the conditions to turn south so fast on the drive home. Snow had been falling all night and into the morning, the temperature had plunged and a freak blizzard came out of nowhere. Of course, seeing as we live in the Pacific Northwest, and handle snow most of the year – the plows were still ready to roll and the roads weren’t too terrible in most places. Some areas had not been reached yet and one of those spots is exactly where I came upon an major accident moments after it had occurred.

There was no question in my mind when I saw the truck on the side of the road, crumpled into itself and the contents of its bed strewn about the highway – I was pulling over to help. It wasn’t until I pulled just past the truck and to the side of the road that I saw the small car that he had hit – in worse condition than the truck. Not many people stop anymore these days, they take photos and video as they drive by and continue on with their days. Today I was impressed that I wasn’t the only one on the side of the road to help – an off duty Paramedic from a local fire department took charge of the scene, and began to assess injuries.

The man driving the truck had bounced his head off of his own windshield – spidering the glass, and giving himself a serious gash. It seemed to me that he was in shock, and possibly concussed as well. By the time I reached the truck he was out and wandering aimlessly in a haze around the side of the road – sometimes into the road. With the paramedic immobilizing and dealing with the man trapped in the car I took to wrangling the pickup driver and getting him back near his truck; the gash in his head had bled streaks of red blood down his face but it didn’t seem to phase him at all – shock had set in quicker than the pain had.

Eventually I was able to convince him to sit down near his truck and apply a bandage to the top of his head to at least slow the bleeding. Meanwhile the paramedic and another good samaritan were still tending to the man in the car; the other good-sam had taken the hand of the pinned driver and was holding it – never letting go, until the fire department arrived to extract him.

I surveyed the scene, wreckage was strewn all over the place, and both vehicles were totaled beyond repair. We were just over a hillside I thought to myself that this whole thing posed a risk to drivers coming our way – and to us because of those same drivers and the chance that they might be surprised by the accident as it came into view as they crested the hilltop. I keep emergency kits in all my vehicles, and my truck is no exception to that rule – I quickly took the flares I had and began hiking up the hill toward the top, lighting and tossing flares out into the road at an angle, essentially closing the right lane to traffic. At the very least the flares would get their attention I thought.

The snow was billowing around us – except where the flares had melted it away – and I thought to myself that we would be here for awhile waiting for emergency responders to arrive. I was right about that, they had their hands full with two more accidents just 2 miles down the road from us (I’d later drive past both of those accidents on my way home). The call to 911 had been made as soon as the accident happened so all we had to do now was wait. The pickup driver began to feel the pain in his head as the adrenaline wore off – and the cold began to cut through even his thick fleece jacket. Meanwhile, the other driver was still pinned in his vehicle, an emergency blanket draped across his shoulders for warmth shone silver against the bright white of fresh snow; if nothing else – he was warm.

First to arrive was a fire department ambulance, they knew our paramedic and he briefed them on both patients in rapid fire mode while leading them to the man trapped in his car. Moments later the Idaho State Patrol were on scene, as two cruisers pulled up with their lights on. As I wasn’t involved in the accident and didn’t witness it happen the State Patrolman released me from the scene. I was happy to be back in my truck with the warm air blasting and on my way, disappointed my coffee I’d just bought moments before (and had totally forgotten about this entire time) was ice cold – and relieved that both men were going to be ok.

I’ll always stop. In the Army the trained some of us a Combat Life Savers, basic stuff – meant to keep people alive in spite of their battle wounds long enough for real medics to arrive. Later we went through Stryker First Responder Training, and then after the military I had several rounds of red cross training….I feel as though with that much training, lapsed, current, or otherwise – if you are able, and capable, and knowledgeable, you should be compelled to stop and help.

Even if you don’t have all of that, human nature should compel you to do more than snap a photo for your social media whilst barreling on into traffic. That all being said…here are some photos I took after being told I wasn’t needed at the scene anymore.

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The paramedic, and two other good samaritans with the man pinned in his car.
What remains of the truck, it’s driver seen left, and our paramedic on the right.
Flares out, you can see my blue truck further down the hill from the scene. Debris was launched all over the road.
The man crouching (left) never left the side of, or let his hand go, of the man pinned in his car. As first responders began to arrive, those of us not directly involved were told we could go.
Idaho State Patrol and a local ambulance from a nearby Fire Station
No longer needed, I loaded up in my truck and joined the string of traffic snaking its way down the hill into Coeur d’Alene. Passing no less than two more accidents along the way – just miles apart.
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