DEATH (Guest Post by Paul Curran)

Due to its nature, there are no pictures in the body of this post.  Those will be supplied by your own imagination.

DEATH

By: Paul Curran

PaulCurran

Alan and I finished our late supper about 11 pm at the Irving Big Stop in Deer Lake Newfoundland. The truck stop restaurant was owned by a local family, and the food was excellent. We had both showered, and having slept for four hours, we were raring to go. I pulled out first, headed west, and Alan followed in his Freightliner with a temperature controlled trailer (reefer). We were both headed towards the ferry back to the mainland, loaded with frozen fish destined for American markets.

It was a warm, clear summer night, and I had the driver’s window halfway down. The driving was perfect and we had lots of time to get to the 6am ferry- about a three-hour drive. There was only one town – Corner Brook – of any size and a handful of tiny communities along the way. Hardly any speed changes and no controlled intersections – just a nice ride. Alan and I chatted back and forth on the CB as we drove. The last ferry would have arrived at PaB at 6 pm (at the time they ran twice a day) and the vehicles had long passed where we were. At night, there was very little traffic on these roads between towns. Even the police only came out here when called – they seldom patrolled.

About halfway to the ferry, we approached the turn-off to Stephenville – a decent sized town about ½ hour off the Trans-Canada Highway, where we were passing by en route to Port aux Basques. The junction was level to my right, but was in the middle of a construction zone. They were twinning the highway and had the overpass in place, but traffic both ways was running on one side of the new highway, as if it were a two-lane road. The other side, which would be the east-bound when done, was formed but still had a gravel surface. The whole construction zone was on a sweeping turn to my left. I could see the intersection where Hwy 490 went to the right towards Stephenville. I could not see the highway around the bend. I slowed to 80 kmph (50 mph), the construction zone speed.

As I approached the bend, I could see the lights of an oncoming vehicle reflecting off the concrete overpass and painting the road. I started around the bend, and the lights of a car (too low and narrow to be a truck) came into view. As it always is when meeting a vehicle in a turn at night, it was not immediately possible to determine where the car was positioned on the road. As the distance between us closed, I realized quickly that the car was partially on my side of the road and drifting further into my lane – as if going straight rather than staying in its lane. I braked hard and moved as far to the right as I could without leaving the shoulder. The lights of the car matched my movements. This is a common phenomenon at night when an oncoming driver is tired, confused, has poor visibility or is distracted. They drive into the headlights of the approaching vehicle. Almost always, they will realize their error as they get closer, and correct. This vehicle did not correct.

I had a short tinted bug deflector along the nose of the hood, and as I watched, the car headlights disappeared behind the deflector – in head-on position. At this point everything happened very fast – a fraction of a second – and yet it seemed as if time had slowed almost to a standstill. I can clearly remember what seemed like a long pause between the headlights disappearing and the horrendous crash that ensued. If we were both doing 80 kmph (50 mph) then we were approaching at a rate of 146 feet per second, so if I lost sight at 50 feet, it was less than 1/3 of a second before the crash.

I did not have my seat belt on (they were not required at the time and many truck drivers did not use them in case of an accident that involved fire or being submerged in a waterway) and my body pivoted around my arms holding the steering wheel, my head hitting the roof liner. I bounced in the seat and hit the ceiling a second time. My legs flew up under the dashboard, my shins striking the bottom edge. The sound of being inside a large crash is indescribable, as if every molecule around you is suddenly vibrating with noise. I can recall the view forward as being grey and granular, like a heavy fog. Although I had been stopping, it takes many seconds to stop a vehicle that large, and my foot was no longer on the brake. The truck was still moving, and I can remember waiting for a piece of debris to come through the windshield and cause serious injury. There was as sense of complete loss of control.

Eventually the truck slid to a stop, nose pointed down, and the noise faded away. I seemed to be intact, but so much adrenaline was flowing I could have had a serious injury and would not be aware. I tried the door but it was crumpled shut. The windshield was gone from its frame, and I scrambled out through the hole fearing a fire. The hood was also gone, and I stepped on top of the twisted motor and jumped down on the ground. At that point I realized the front end and both front wheels were also gone. I can recall seeing the crushed and leaking frame-mounted fuel tanks sitting directly on the ground. No fire, that was good. The tractor and trailer sat on the unfinished gravel road adjacent to the highway, the tractor at a 45 degree angle to the trailer – lucky that it hadn’t jackknifed and hit the trailer.

I half walked, half ran towards the remains of the car. I remember seeing Alan also running towards the wreckage. The car was crushed beyond recognition. The engine and front 10 feet of the car were in the back seat. There was nothing in between but a large block of steaming twisted metal, emitting snapping and popping sounds as it cooled and expanded from the impact. There was no chance that anyone was alive. Pieces of the car and truck were scattered over the roadway as if thrown there by some giant hand.

In the end, the police and emergency crews and wreckers came and began to organize the carnage as the sunrise turned the scene blood red. It all became very civilized from that point. All the impact marks were on my side of the road, Alan was a witness, the truck (or its remains) were examined and pronounced in good shape. I was cleared of any wrong-doing. Alan took my undamaged trailer down to the ferry and loaded it aboard for the company to pick up on the other side. I travelled with Alan back to where we met a friend who picked me up and took me home (only about 60 miles from the pick-up point). I heard later from the police that the car driver had likely had a seizure as he was an epileptic. He had been alone in the car, returning from a night job cleaning offices n another town.

Even though I was cleared, there still lingers the guilt at having been in the wrong place at the wrong time. That I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

__________

Paul Curran and I love to hear from our readers. You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook or Twitter pages, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com or notcordeliasmom@aol.com

__________

This entry was posted in Guest Posters, Paul Curran, Road Trips & Cars, That's Life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to DEATH (Guest Post by Paul Curran)

  1. Paul says:

    Thank you very much for the opportunity to Guest Post CM. This is the very first time this story has been told – even though it happened many years ago.

    Like

  2. ksbeth says:

    this is so sad and devastating. i wasn’t your fault but i can imagine how hard it must be to believe that. thank you for sharing this. i’ve had these same thoughts about a train engineer who hits someone on the tracks, through no fault of their own, but knowing they have to live with this.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Thank you so much Beth. Yes, this is difficult and the feelings don’t change – they continue year after year. Thank you so much for dropping by for a read beth. i am honored.

      Like

  3. Dan Antion says:

    I’m sorry that you had to experience that crash, but I am glad you escaped (physically) unharmed. I can only imagine having to carry the memory.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      It is difficult Dan. Later in my life i used the feelings this incident has left with me to become the safety director for a tanker company. it gives a very strong motivation to see safety become the primary consideration in any endeavor. thank you so much for coming to visit and i hope you drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. adamjasonp says:

    Oh, wow, you survived that! …Just, wow. I would’ve never figured. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  5. willowdot21 says:

    Oh! Paul what an horrendous accident, their was nothing you could of done.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Thank you Willow. It was very difficult to process initially and when i explained the negative feelings to my friends, they had an interesting take on it. Their response was that given the other driver was going to lose control of their vehicle, that had it been anything other than a tractor-trailer that he hit, some innocent person would have died – perhaps even many innocent people. It was this thought that made it bearable, if not easy to take. Thanks so much for dropping by for a visit Willow. please come by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Painful story, Paul. I’m so sorry, but I’m glad you didn’t get hurt worse. There are just things that are out of our hands sometimes, that we regret not being able to control. I’ve really had to work hard on forgiving myself for some much simpler things that I couldn’t have done anything about anyway, but still those regrets linger. You just wish things had turned out differently.

    Kind of interesting, I spend a lot of time telling people that trucks can’t stop quickly. I have no idea why I am compelled to say it so often, but we tend to zip around in little cars these days that can stop on a dime and make some sharp turns, and many people seem to believe that trucks can do the same. There’s not a lot of awareness about the load they’re carrying or the physics involved. It wouldn’t have helped your situation at all, but sometimes I think if we just educate more people about it, we could save some lives.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Absolutely IB. And thank you. That was a point that I emphasized when training or assessing drivers. You know how a car drives and handles and the car drivers do not know how a truck handles, so it is up to the truck driver to take care of the other drivers on the road. For a truck driver it is all about driving defensively. I made it a policy to rule out drivers who did not or could not see this. It was deal breaker when it came to hiring.

      It is very difficult to emotionally internalize the fact that had I not been there, the other driver would not have died. Still, had it been another car or a smaller vehicle rather than my truck that he hit, no doubt others would have died. In a manner, one can see how the outcome was inevitable given the other driver’s loss of control and that the actualization of that did minimum damage to others because he hit a truck. Viewed from the right perspective, the incident outcome could be attributed to the interaction of free will (the other driver) and divine intervention (which kept anyone else from being hurt when the other’s free will was actualized).

      Thanks so much for the read IB and please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Archon's Den says:

        An eye-opening story! 😯
        Your truck safety training resembles what I was taught in my motorcycle course. You have to drive for all the other idiots. 🙂

        Like

        • Paul says:

          Hey Archon! Long time no see. How’ve you been? i am pleased that you enjoyed the story and I think you for dropping by for a read and a comment. Yeah, defensive driving is the name of the game. Even in the last 20 years, the density of traffic and the speed in urban areas in continually increasing. Defensive driving is pretty much required just to survive these days. At fault or not is irrelevant if you’re dead.

          Thanks again for the visit – y’all come back now, ya hear?

          Like

          • Archon's Den says:

            Hi Paul!
            I’m well. I read every word you post on CM’s site, because I read every word she publishes – perhaps a couple of days late, but read.
            I (eventually) sent you a long email about Religism, and another look at those who complain it happens to them, when it really doesn’t. I published https://archonsden.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/people-of-privilege/ on April 5th.
            Perhaps, with your computer deficiencies, you didn’t see it. I included some results of Googling you, as I did CM. Not quite as informative.
            Here, or elsewhere, keep laying your tales down. They are engrossing. I’ll be back. 🙂
            Archon

            Like

  7. Ned's Blog says:

    Painfull to read, Paul. At-fault or not, being involved in the senseless death of someone is a heavy burden to carry. Hopefully, the telling of it will help lighten your burden a little with the help of many sympathetic hearts. As a firefighter trained in extrication, I’ve been involved in the recovery of those who did not survive crashes. Even though I’m not directly involved in the accidents themselves, experiencing the aftermath is burden enough. I can only imagine what it feels like to be there when it happens. I’m sorry that, for you, it’s not a matter of imagination.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much for dropping by Ned. That’s true too, I had forgotten that you were involved in such horrors with your job. That would be very difficult for me and I am glad that volunteers such as yourself do it. My hats off to you and all your comrades. In a way i was lucky that I didn’t have to see the body – that likely would have been worse. It is very hard to live with, in that the feelings never diminish or fade. However, i built a reality and support structure around those feelings so that they don’t run my life or influence it in a negative way. with the realization that had it been a car instead of my truck , someone else would have died. Also, i did everything in my power to avoid the accident. Plus I was cleared by the federal police. Also, Alan saw the accident from directly behind me and his testimony made it clear that i had acted appropriately and legally. My friends were all supportive as well. So all in all, it is something that you live with and learn to deal with. I would not wish it on anyone else. It has impacted my life and is a part of the reason why i believe in God. it also makes one a much more aware and safer driver.

      Thanks so much for visiting Ned. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ned's Blog says:

        Yes, definitely no bame for you to share, Paul. You did all you could to avoid it; some things are just going to happen regardless of trying to avoid them. I’m glad you have the support you needed to put — and keep — things in perspective. And thanks for sharing an experience that everyone can learn something from when it comes to dealing with unavoidable tragedy.

        Like

  8. ~ Sadie ~ says:

    Oh my, how horrific and haunting . . .
    But I tend to agree with your friends – maybe you were in the exact right place at the exact right time to save the lives of others or make the suffering of that one individual less. And maybe God knew not only would you walk away, but you are strong-minded enough to be able to live with the aftermath AND use the experience for good. You have mentioned this story in passing a few times, when sharing stories about your trucking days, and I agree sometimes getting it all down on paper (real or virtual) can help – if not you, maybe others who read it.
    Thanks for sharing this, Paul – I’m sure it was difficult to write.

    Like

    • Amen, Sadie. My thoughts exactly.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Thanks very much Sadie for your understanding and support. I have worked at making some good come from this experience. It pokes out occasionally but this is the first time i have written the whole story in one place. It is a relief, no question. After considerable contemplation, I do see the hand of God in there – an interesting mix of free will and direction. Thanks so much for dropping by Sadie – i am honored.

      Like

  9. julie says:

    HOLY CRAP PAUL!!! My god do you have stories! I would love it if you could tell me some of them, like this one for instance, is fiction, but I know better. It is better that we don’t question the why’s of the workings of the world, I just try to focus on the positive, or see how the circumstances could have been worse. It sounds kinda dumb, but it is a way for me to see that God was there.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      I agree Julie, I see the hand of a supreme being in there for sure. We are not denied free will and yet circumstances are controlled sufficiently to minimize harm. It is as true as i can make it. I have tried writing fiction before but I am most comfortable acting as a scribe for events that have happened. it seems to be my writing style. Thanks so much for coming by to visit. Please drop by again.

      Like

  10. Doobster418 says:

    Tragic story, Paul, but it could have been worse for you, anyway. I’m glad you made it out physically unscathed, but sorry about the emotional scars you still bear. So after that incident, did you regularly start wearing a seat belt?

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hi Doob! Thanks so much for dropping by! Oh yes, i wore a seat belt from there on. Anyone who says they will just hold onto the steering wheel in case of an accident is just fooling themselves – and i’m happy to tell them so from experience. And I was lucky as the truck didn’t roll or even leave the road bed. Also there was no slam from jack -knifing either/ All in all, it was pretty tame -force wise – from my end. Emotionally it is hard to deal with however i seem to have contained it so that the incident doesn’t produce any sustained negative effects. Thanks again for the visit Doob, Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Elyse says:

    Paul, thanks for retelling what is obviously a painful remembrance. The story should be required reading in DMV offices. Because we all feel invincible behind the wheel. Your story is a reminder that no, we aren’t.

    You really should collect your stories into a book.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much for the read and the compliment Elyse. i’m new to writing and am sort of feeling out my oats, so to speak. I feel that i have a lot to learn and will continue until i think i can handle a book, mind you by producing regular posts, i am creating a body of work with a common thread that could potentially be consolidated into a book at a later date if it turns out to have value. I really appreciate your encouragement and positive feedback. Thanks so much for the visit today – please drop by again.

      Like

  12. Gibber says:

    How awful. As one that has epilepsy and drives I have to say that the person driving would have had to gone a year seizure free before they would be allowed to drive so either they were driving when they shouldn’t have been or, they were ambushed by a seizure. I’m sorry you have to live with that. Did you have an injuries you found after the adrenaline wore off? Glad you survived it.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hey Gibber! So pleased to see you here. I didn’t have any injuries – just bruises. i was lucky. Thanks so much for your concern and for dropping by for a visit. I wasn’t aware that you suffered from epilepsy. The police did not elaborate on the situation in the accident. I’m glad the story had an impact. please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow. That must have been horrific. And no, there was absolutely nothing you could have done.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Yes, it was horrific. Thank you for your kind thoughts KEW. Welcome to Cordelia’s Mom, I am honored that you dropped by for a read and a comment. It tool a lot of years to come to terms with the accident, and for about 5 years every time I would meet a vehicle on a turn at night, my hair would stand on end until it had passed. It did make me a safer driver and more concerned with safety in general – leading to a job eventually as a Safety director for a major fuel tanker company.

      Thanks so much for the visit KEW, please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. markbialczak says:

    You withstood something awful in your usual stoic manner, Paul. I’m glad your rig stayed straight and true and kept you as safe as it did. I’m sorry for your emotional toll, and the loss of the other driver’s life, of course. I can’t help but think, though, if it hadn’t been your tough truck, it could have been a car filled with far more vulnerable folk, and more lives would have been lost. So perhaps you and God’s unseen hand saved souls in some way, again, my friend.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      After a long while, I started to think the same thing. I am pleased that you had the time to drop by Mark. Thank you for the read and the comment. I am happy that you arrived home safe and sound. Please give my regards to Karen and have a great evening.

      Like

  15. A terrible story but, if you don’t mind my saying, wonderfully written. You were right to leave the photos out. Good call. I’m sorry this happened to you. I’ve always felt autos were a necessary evil. Every time I turn the ignition I pray for a safe arrival. I’m not so frightened of driving or flying that I never go anywhere, but I’m always glad when the trip is over.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hi Mark! So glad you dropped by for a read and comment. Indeed each trip does involve risk increase for sure. Different people have different risk profiles and what may bother me will be easy for you and vice versa. I know others who share your concern when travelling Mark. it is easy for circumstances to leave control. When I was training fuel haulers it was surprising how many drivers just could not do the job because they could not get the thought of the risk of fuel hauling from their mind (about 9 out of 10). Of even more concern were the risk profiles of their wives and family. Many a new fuel driver enjoyed the job and could handle the additional risk,but their family worried so that they had to quit to keep the peace at home. You are not alone in expressing concern over traveling. I find that my faith makes it easier for me.

      Thanks again for the visit Mark – I am honored. Please drop by again.

      Like

  16. …in the blink of an eye, … there but for fortune …

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Indeed David – very apt. It takes between 300 and 400 milliseconds or about 1/3 of a second to blink – the same length of time from when the car disappeared until the crash ensued. Thank you so much for dropping by for a read and comment. It is wonderful to have you visit. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. What a gut-wrenching experience! You really put this into words so well. I know what you mean about a sense of responsibility even though you couldn’t have done anything to prevent such a tragedy. That’s the compassion in you, your reverence for another life, not really guilt. The lingering desire to have been able to have figured out an answer in the impossible. Something about these stories always makes me reflect on a purpose on those kinds of wings of fate.

    On another note, I am happy to see you are out in cyber-world talking to us. I take it you’ve come out the other end of the latest hospital visit?

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hi Robyn! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment. I am pleased that you enjoyed the story. Yes, it generated some very powerful emotions. For a while the emotions ruled, like the tail wagging the cat. As the years went by though, the emotions became internalized. Now the cat wags the tail again. Thank you for your concern.

      Yep, I escaped from the hospital – don’t pay the ransom! When last we talked was it the operation or the “bump”? Whatever, both went well. Hope all is well with you and yours. Thanks again for the visit – please come by again.

      Like

  18. A truck driver’s worst nightmare. Train engineers/drivers must feel the same thing when they see a car on the tracks, frantically blow the horn and do all they can to stop, but slam into it.
    You did a good job slowing down time in the story to tell all the details up to impact. The reader really feels the horror. Most of us never think about how the truck drivers (without seatbelts then) were thrown around, but of course that would happen.
    You were put there for a reason. The truck went straight. Your friend was driving behind you. Only one died – who probably died instantly rather than slamming into something in a one car crash and lingering unseen for hours. Not sure anyone ever get over this even though you did nothing wrong.
    I had a friend who was driving home after work one day and a couple on a motorcycle was foolishly zipping through traffic much too fast on a crowded freeway. The jumped the bike in front of her and something happened and it went down. She ran over them. Witnesses stopped and said she was not at fault. The police said she wasn’t at fault. But she was haunted by the incident and had nightmares. She knew she couldn’t have done anything, but still.
    Bet you were one great safety guy for the company. Nothing’s better than a teacher’s who’s been there and can tell it well.
    (Sorry it’s taken me a while to get by – this respiratory thing took hole and I have to be careful as I have a habit of getting pneumonia easily…lost my voice, but tonsils feeling better)

    Like

  19. Paul says:

    Hi Phil! thanks so much for dropping by for a read and a comment. Your writing tone sounds much more upbeat – you must be feeling better. Yes, being involved in a fatal accident is one heck of an emotional blow – I feel bad for your friend. At least I was spared the sight of the body. It took quite a few years to grow around it emotionally. I hope I have used the experience to produce something positive in the world.

    Thanks again for popping by – please come to visit again.

    Like

  20. Pingback: Empathy in Medicine | Behind the White Coat

  21. Aussa Lorens says:

    What an awful thing to have happened, and to have as part of your life. I am glad you were not hurt. And I’m sad for his family, what a horrible tragedy.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      It was tragic – so much long term pain and loss all caused in less than a second. Thank you for dropping by for a read Aussa. Welcome back from your honeymoon. We are all pleased that you didn’t met any crocodiles.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s