Friday, 1 November 2013

Accidents on the way home

It was an unexpected way to arrive home from Maui.

We were driving home along the TransCanada, passed over Jumpingpound River about 30 km west of Calgary, climbed up the "Green Drop" hill (a hill where the Green Drop lawn care company has mowed into the grass their logo -- bypassing the "No Billboards" law we have here), crested the hill to find... slamming on their brakes. Debris on the road. Smoke. A truck overturned laying across the road. Fire in the ditch. And only ~6 cars between us and the mess, meaning it JUST happened.

I called the RCMP -- and was the first to do so. A 4 minute call. Karen ran back to start waving down the oncoming traffic -- doing 120 km/hr coming up a blind hill to a catastrophe scene -- to try and stop secondary collisions. She sent someone forward with a fire extinguisher. The flames are put out while I am on the phone.

The first RCMP arrived just as I finished the call. I grabbed my first aid kit, cursing myself that my big emergency kit (with flares and reflectors and vests and stuff) was at home, removed to make space for luggage to go to Maui. I ran to see what I could do.

One victim. A truck driver, prone on the pavement. Diesel fuel and debris everywhere. Two people helping the man, both trained in first aid. I announced I had first air training and asked if help was needed. Shoulder injury, hip injury, numerous facial lacerations, spinal involvement, lucid but quiet. He had no idea how he got out of the truck. The two Good Samaritans were supporting the victim's head and arms. He complained of being cold in the 50 km/hr, 7° wind. I wrapped his legs in my down jacket. An Irish lady, trained paramedic, arrived. Pulse check. Strong but slow.

More RCMP and Sheriffs arrived. Some took photos. We stayed helping the victim. They brought disposable emergency blankets. We placed supports under his feet.

Then the fire department arrived. One firefighter took over from one of the first volunteer responders. Standard questions asked to assess head trauma. Radio calls.

Then EMS arrived, and it was their turn. A re-check of vitals, standard trauma checks and more questions. More radio calls. EMS started to cut the victims clothes off. Abdominal bruising. A second ambulance arrives. The victim is rolled onto a backboard, and clearly this wasn't fun for him. A neck brace is installed. We volunteers back away as we are no longer needed.
iPhone capture of the scene at that time
And we wait. The victim is taken into an ambulance and out of the wind and cold.

Then STARS arrives.
Crappy picture, but you get the idea.
I think about this. STARS takes off 2 minutes after getting a call. Flight time to this spot is 7-10 min in that helicopter. So STARS was called 9-12 minutes earlier -- about 90 seconds after EMS arrived.
One firetruck has moved. STARS waits.
STARS departs within 5 minutes of landing.
Horrible grainy iPhone 4 max-zoom of a real life mess
The RCMP and Sheriffs clear a way past the mess, and we are released to drive home. We were not witnesses, and have nothing to add to the investigation that has already started.

What the heck did happen? Who knows. But it was blowing 50-70 km/hr winds, and that gravel truck with its pup trailer were empty. Did a bad gust of wind cause the trailer to swing out of control? You can see it upside down in the ditch, and the guardrail's a mess. The truck obviously rolled, but landed upright.
100 yds of decimated guardrail
But the truck has stopped way too close to the start of the guardrail damage, and was most clearly doing over 100 km/hr. So did he get into trouble earlier? Will the victim live?

We won't ever know. Maybe the RCMP will. The highway was closed for at least 3 hours after we got let through.

And it made the news. Areal pictures from Global. Stories on the CBC and CTV -- and yes, that's my photo on the CTV page.

Not the best way to arrive home, but at least we were able to help.

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