Lessons from a Fatal Accident

I found myself in a very surreal situation a few weeks ago. I want to share with you, as this could be you some day. Things happen, and they happen suddenly. This was one of those things.

I was at a stoplight on a busy four lane street. It was dusk. I was the third car in line in my lane. When the light turned green, the two cars in front of me took off as fast as they were able. Within seconds the front car hit its brakes and violently swerved to the right.

In an instant the second car did the same. I was looking at the cars wondering why they swerved out of the lane. I thought to myself, someone was hauling something and part of what they were hauling fell off the truck or trailer and was laying in the street.

Accidents happen quickly and without warning

Accidents happen quickly and without warning

I started slowing down looking in my rear view mirror deciding which lane would be safer to turn into. When I looked forward to the road surface, I saw a large something laying in the lane.

As I came closer, I thought to myself, that looks like a human body. I quickly turned into the right lane, and stopped on the side of the road. When I exited my truck, I was sure it looked like a human laying in the street. From here on what happened became very surreal.

My next thought was call 911. I had my work phone with me, but I turn it off after work. As I walked towards the form on the street, a woman was standing with her phone out and one finger over the screen.

I asked her if she knew what happened or knew the person on the street. She said no. I asked her who she was calling, and she said, “I’m calling emergency”. Unfortunately she was frozen in place. I asked to call 911 as I walked towards the body.

It was dark, and the lighting was not good. My first thought was it was sick prank, what else could it be. Someone threw a human looking dummy into the street thinking it would be funny watching vehicles swerve to avoid hitting it.

After some seconds of staring at the body, I knew it was not a dummy, and I also knew he was not alive. I am now standing in the middle of a fifty mile per hour four lane street with a dead body on the ground. No sign of an accident and no reasonable explanation of how it got there.

I think that pretty well describes the situation. As I stood there, I thought to myself, ‘people get killed doing what I am doing’, trying to do the right thing. I could not leave the body alone to get ran over by someone not thinking about their driving, so I stayed in the lane with the body.

I looked over to the woman who was still frozen in place, and this time I commanded her to dial 911. A few more people had gathered and two of them said they would call 911. The woman was likely in shock and probably could not remember the number to 911.

I remembered I had either a tarp or a blanket in the backseat of my truck. When the light turned red, I walked to my truck to get it. The woman was still frozen in place. I found a blanket in the backseat, walked back into the lane, and with the help of a person who stopped and put on their flashers so I would not get hit too, we covered the body with a blanket.

I saw a woman walking up the lane from a distance. there was a car with its flashers on stopped in the lane some distance away. When she was about twenty feet away she broke down, sobbing and crying she hit the man and did not mean too.

One of the bystanders told her to go to the side of road which she did. It sounds harsh, but I did not care if she stayed standing out in the street in front of traffic that probably did not see her. She was not my concern, and her actions did not fit what happened. I realized later, she was probably in shock too.

The police eventually arrived, two officers in two vehicles. One officer started controlling traffic, and the second came to where I was standing next to the body. After surveying the situation and listening to me telling him there was a dead man under the blanket, he lifted the blanket, and confirmed what I said.

The policeman stood, and announced to the five or six of us that were at the scene, that this was about to become a crime scene, and if we were not involved in the accident, or had pertinent information we should leave, unless we wanted to stay there three or four hours. Myself and the others who were not involved left the scene.

There is good learning here even though the situation is horrible.

Things happen which are way out of our comfort zone.

The two drivers of the two cars in front of me at the stoplight will have to live with their decision not to stop and render aid for the rest of their lives every time they are reminded of what they did.

Sometimes even with the best of intentions we are not able to do what we know we should do.

Risk taking is a personal choice. Not everyone should be willing to stand in a lane with a dead body with cars flying by on each side of you.

If people are already stopped and helping, and it looks as if you can not help too, it is probably best to drive on. Too many people could mean a second accident, as driver are sometimes too preoccupied.

The person who was killed deserves some of the responsibility for what happened. Crossing eight lanes at night, not in a vehicle, is an extreme high risk activity. It is horrible what happened, but it can not be undone.

When driving, pay attention to the road in front of you. The driver who killed the man IMHO, was unfortunately distracted somehow. She will have to live with what happened for the rest of her life. I would not want to be her, and I am sure you do not either.

If you are on foot or on a bicycle, skateboard, or something else, weigh the risk of street crossings carefully. The person hit and killed may have crossed this street at this time night thing often over time, and was safe every time, until this time.