As I was driving to my Clark Kent Job [Costco Supervisor], I noticed the sand along Highway 9 for the snow clearing efforts, and after watching the wreckfest of the 61st running of the Daytona 500 over the weekend, it reminded me of the first time I provided roadside first aid.
At the time of the incident I was married (yes, you read that right – I was married before) We usually visited her family in Spokane a few times a year: once during the summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
If memory serves it was late 90’s, but definitely was Christmas Eve. Interstate 90 was clear enough to travel over, so we set out as we usually do.
Elk Heights Road
I remember the area and exit because years prior as a teenager I left my buddy’s broken down truck just off the exit with a note stating we would be back for it after the Alanis Morrisette concert at the Gorge at George (my crew of Art Turner, Marty Jaso, Sherrie Larsen, and others)
I was driving my 1998 black Honda Civic, a very popular car in the 90’s. I-90 was bare and dry so speeds were up near 70-80 mph the entire trip. Despite this, I still used the right-hand lane for travel to allow faster traffic to easily pass me.
Besides, my wife was easily car sick with variable speeds.
I zipped passed Cle Elum, and I noticed a caravan in my rear-view mirror in the distance. They seemed to be traveling at 75mph or higher because they were reeling my car in, by inching closer slowly.
By the time I passed the Elk Heights Road exit, I could identify the lead car a purple Honda Civic with a spoiler, a pick up truck, a mini-van and another passenger car in my rear-view mirror because they “caught” me.
The purple Honda shifted to the left lane to overtake me. Unfortunately, the driver put the left side wheels over the line and drove over the sand, grit at high speed.
He tried to quickly correct, which destabilized the rear-end. Watching this carefully I took my foot out of the gas. Then he sawed the steering wheel left to correct, but it aggravated the situation. The front wheels regained traction, and sending him 90 degrees across I-90 in FRONT OF ME!
I stood on the brakes in a panicked effort to avoid T-boning him. The nose of my car practically kissed the asphalt, and you could slide a piece of paper between our cars.
The purple Honda careens into the snowy ditch at 70 mph. I wrestle for control of my Honda as it screeches to a halt on the shoulder while the other vehicle dart around me to avoid hitting me.
I looked in horror as the purple Honda shot into the air nose first. The first impact was landing square on the trunk which crushed and ejected the rear wheels off the car.
Then it pin-wheeled through the air like a drunken ballerina. The nose of the car smashed into the snow, and slowed the car dramatically. It pirouetted a few times with the doors flung open, and came to a rest upside down.
I turned off the car, while still grip the steering wheel with white-knuckles. I turned to Charlene, “Jesus Christ, did that just happen?”
“Yes,” she mumbled. “I call 911.”
My First Experience For Roadside First Aid
I popped the trunk open, and opened the car door. She asks, “What are you going to do, Los?”
“Whatever I can,” I answer quietly. I grab my first aid kit, and mentally review my first aid lessons I learned as an Eagle Scout. I desperately trudge through thigh-high snow to the crashed vehicle.
My mind is racing with possible scenarios what I’m gonna see as a first responder. That’s literally what first aid is defined as: the first aid provided to the injured party.
I looked inside the passenger extracted herself already, the passenger in the back seat was trapped, and the driver was barely conscious hanging upside down seat belted in.
Thankfully, the airbags had deployed but if you’ve never been around the smell – it’s very pungent. I was able to assist the driver unbelt himself, then able to free the passenger from backseat.
All four of us starting walking towards the concrete of the I-90 shoulder. Several vehicles had pulled over, and started asking if they could help. I ignore that noise to concentrate on organizing a triage.
The passenger was holding her right arm, the driver was bleeding from his right eye, and the passenger in the backseat was visibly shaken but not hurt.
I stated to the driver, “I’m Carlos. Help is on the way. What hurts?” He blankly stared at me.
Ok, I thought, maybe he’s in shock. The passenger piped up, “He doesn’t speak English.”
My wife, Charlene, walks up to my triage area. “Los, describe the injuries out loud. The 911 operator is asking for clarification.” An ambulance siren cuts her off as it travels westbound quickly to the Elk Heights Road exit to turn around and get to us.
Washington State Patrol arrives before the boys in the red box do. The officer casually walks up. “Who’s in charge here? Has first aid been administered yet?”
“I am, sir,” I answer him. I describe the visible injuries, and that priority should be given to the driver. I gave the office my contact information, packed up my first aid kit, walked back to the car with Charlene.
I grumbled, “So much for using this kit.”
She smiled, “It’s ok. Your intentions were in their best interest. The professionals are on it now.”
I might not have been given first aid, but I was first to help! That’s gotta count for something, right?