On the way home...

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mark Young
  • 505th Command and Control Wing
It's four o'clock, quitting time for a lot of people heading west on U.S. Highway 98. The speed limit is 55 mph and everyone's in a hurry. 

Long day at work... Traffic flows at about 60. One young mother heads east, on her way presumably to pick up her son from school, and another heads west with her daughter on her way home.

Eastbound Mom is crossing Highway 98 heading and is hit by the westbound Mom. Some drivers stop and render assistance. Traffic still moves around the accident on the right shoulder.

An Air Force major is in the back of the Saturn SUV rendering first aid. Victim One (Eastbound mom) is in and out of consciousness. The car's front door is jammed and people are trying to pull the door open to free her legs. The door is still stuck, but she is no longer pinned. 

A nurse arrives at the scene and tries to take control; asks for a watch to monitor her pulse. The major is combat-lifesaver certified and has everything under control. The nurse hands the watch to one person and he returns it to another.

Bystanders continue to route traffic on the right shoulder so first responders will be able to get through.

There is gas leaking on the ground. One lady is concerned about possible sparks from the battery igniting the gasoline. Some attempt to pry the hood open with crowbars but with no success. The hood is crushed.

One woman found the victim's ID and another makes contact with her grandmother to inform her of the accident. The son's school calls because he has not been picked up yet.

Another driver is fixed on the scene playing out and filming the event as he rounds the corner to get a closer look. Someone yells for him to stop filming. The driver stops, looks, parks the car and everyone gets out of the vehicle.

Victim One is still in and out of consciousness and convulsing. The major is still supporting her neck, trying to keep her with him by talking and encouraging her to fight.

First responders then arrive at the scene and take control. They also attempt to open the door, but are unsuccessful. One grabs the big saw and starts it up. People back away to give them space.

Someone says there is still someone else hurt and two people run to her aid. Victim Two's vehicle is empty in the median with a deployed airbag. She is in the driver's seat of another car being assisted by the vehicle owner. She has neck pain, a bump on her head and her arm is hurt, but she is responsive. Both return to assist other victims if needed.

Paramedics successfully remove the door and place the other victim on a stretcher. Victim One is conscious, yet moaning from intense pain.

One paramedic grabs a person to help her. The person is directed to go in the back of the vehicle while she puts a brace around Victim Two's neck and to hold her neck until relieved by paramedics. The back seat was hot and the paramedic removed the Good Samaritan's hat and asked if he wanted to remove his sunglasses. He was OK with keeping his sunglasses on. She asks him to talk to the victim to help keep her calm and then closes the back door. He continues to hold her head and talk to her.

Another woman brings Victim Two's daughter to her and they both sit in the front seat by her. The daughter is unhurt, but is missing her right shoe. The woman calls Victim One's grandmother to makes sure she knows about the accident, asks her to pick up the son  from school and tells her to go to the Fort Walton Beach hospital. The vehicle owner notices the girl has lost her shoe and says he will go get it for her and also bring the victim's insurance card from her vehicle. Paramedics walk up to the vehicle with a backboard and take over to remove Victim Two from the vehicle.

The person opens the door and walks back to the other vehicle. Victim One is now in the ambulance. The door and towels are on the roadway. Other responders sweep debris from the highway.

An unmarked police car drives up the road about 100 mph and cars begin to flow around the accident. Bystanders and assistance-givers say a few words to each other and one asks for them to say a prayer for the victims. A few more words are spoken and they make their way back to their cars and into moving traffic. Speeds pick back up - almost like nothing happened.

This story shows how complacency and speed can impact lives in an instant. Highway 98 can be a dangerous road, not because of road hazards, but drivers in too much of a hurry to slow down for vehicles crossing or turning off the highway. Or it can be one person not allowing enough room before crossing into moving traffic.

This account is true, as I saw it all unfold Sept. 24 and we assisted with what we could. Luckily, all involved were wearing seatbelts and the young girl was in her car seat.

I pray that the young mother pulled through to see another day and people will just slow down a little and enjoy the beautiful ride.

A lot of things can happen on the way to home.

As I drove in to work today, yesterday's events were still fresh and vivid. I saw another woman speeding on her way to wherever. She was behind me and sped up to pass me on the right just barely missing the car in front. As she is speeding past, I notice she has two or three young kids with her. She continued down the highway weaving in and out of traffic.

If she only knew...