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Thoughts after an incidental brush with a traffic fatality. - Paint It Black
Living the American dream one heartbreaking piece at a time
Thoughts after an incidental brush with a traffic fatality.
I had planned originally post something lighthearted this morning -- shortly after I woke up I caught Ra doing something cute that I thought deserved to be shared. After I got online and checked the news, however, that plan has been slightly altered.

I worked ridiculously late last night on an issue that had myself and the entire UNIX engineering team in the data center until almost 2300 hours. Given the time of night I decided I might as well take the Tollway home -- it's not like there would be any significant traffic at that hour. It was remarkably quiet on the roads and I made good time. However, on my route back home I drove past this accident. As I figure things I probably came by the scene about two minutes or so after it happened. As I was approaching the turn of the ramp from I-88W to I-355S I saw there was what looked like a mini-van on the left side of the ramp with its lights off and hazard blinkers on. I was a little perplexed by this: why somebody would choose such a poor -- nay, dangerous location to pull over at? Even when it's five past 11 at night the risk of somebody hugging the curve too closely and clipping you or your vehicle on that ramp is incredibly high. As I got closer it became evident why somebody would do that... I saw the guardrail on the South side of the ramp had been mangled and there was a car laying on its roof behind that. Then my headlights played over something far worse -- a body on the side of the road, with somebody crouched by it. It took me a second or three to process that as I drove by.

Once I realized what I'd seen I understood why somebody had pulled over in such a bad location and I followed suit, throwing the Expedition onto the shoulder and punching on the hazard lights. Grabbing my cell phone I called 911 and started to get out of the truck to walk back and find out what was going on. A dispatcher came on and, once I described my location she interrupted me by asking, "Is this about the overturned vehicle on the ramp from 88 to 355, with the ejected passenger?" I said yes, it was. "Paramedics are already en-route. Are you a witness?" I told her no, I had not seen the accident happen. I asked for confirmation that crews had been dispatched and, once she said yes, I thanked her and disconnected. It took me a second or two of sitting in the truck to hear the sirens of the approaching emergency vehicles, but once I did I realized there was nothing more I could do. I have no training to render aid, so I wouldn't have been any help there. Somebody had already called for emergency services and they were with the victim already, following any instructions the dispatcher might have to give so I wouldn't be any help there. I had not seen the accident as it occurred so I couldn't provide any reports about what happened. The dispatcher I'd spoken with had assured me help was enroute and had not asked me to stay. The conclusion I was left with was disheartening, but logical: the only thing I could do in that situation would be to get in the way, so I might as well take myself and my truck and move on so the emergency crews would have a place to park. I figured this was a big enough incident that it would be reported in the papers and sure enough, it was.

I find that I keep coming back to the above analysis of the situation: The guy already had a good samaritan there with him, 911 had already been called, I didn't see the accident happen, I have no training and would only have gotten in the way -- the last thing an accident needs is gawkers. So I ask myself, why does it bother me that I did not stay there until the paramedics had evaluated him and he was transported to the hospital? Is it a case of survivor's guilt arising from my previous medical problems, or maybe because I was up until almost 2 AM this morning doing more work-related things (meaning I put in a twenty-three hour long shift)? Exhaustion does funny things to our emotions and sensibilities, after all.

No good answer is presenting itself. I guess I'll focus on the tasks at hand around the house and make sure I'm available in case our site in Utah has any problems moving into the new, permanent offices. Once that's done I'll be heading off with my friends H&G to go see a property that might be up for sale shortly. I'm being told I have to see it to believe it, so I might as well go take a look if I'm done with my other obligations. Tomorrow: one of the final weeks of bowling league!

Sooner or later your feet are gonna touch the ground

Tags: ,
Current Mood: guilty guilty
Current Music: Conjure One - Premonition (Reprise)

9 thoughts or Leave a thought
spoothbrush From: spoothbrush Date: April 8th, 2006 01:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're a decent human being. The logical fact that there was nothing that you could do and that staying could have made it harder for the people who could have helped doesn't change the emotional impact. I don't think it's survivor's guilt... exhaustion probably contributes, but fundamentally it's being humanitarian and human to want to see that someone else is taken care of.

But I won't tell.
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: April 8th, 2006 02:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
What spoothbrush said.
(Deleted comment)
lady_curmudgeon From: lady_curmudgeon Date: April 8th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
If not a hospital or clinic, if you've got a community college in your area, most offer some sort of EMT/paramedic type class. Two of my best friends went through EMT training that way. Their tuition was paid for by a local volunteer organization: Boy Scout Leaders' Rescue Squad as long as they volunteer for 12 events a year for a couple of years. They've more than met their obligation. One of them, my friend Chris is currently back in college to become an RN as a result of his classes. He also is a member of the local dive rescue team.

I've oft considered volunteering to do such work. I'm not sure if my somewhat weak stomach could take it, though...
skorzy From: skorzy Date: April 8th, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I experienced a similar situation a few years ago. Saw two victims of a motorcycle accident. that had apparently just happened a few minutes before I drove by. It was a late night on a smaller thoroughfare through Palm Springs, CA. One victim was clearly beyond aid, the other had two people already kneeled beside him, giving him care.

I didn't have my cell phone at the time, so I used the next best thing. I called in the accident to the local 2 meter Ham ARES repeater. I got another operator who called 911 for me.

I remember feeling like you did, frustratingly helpless, but realizing my stopping would only add to the confusion of the situation and I had done everything I could possibly do.

I think its merely a mark of decent human morality to feel like that. Once the mind convinces the heart that it did indeed do the right thing, the guilt will go away.
lady_curmudgeon From: lady_curmudgeon Date: April 8th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Two years ago this summer, there was a freak ass one-car accident on my street where a seemingly drunk neighbor and his brother struck a guy out on a walk before going fishing around 4AM, then hit the tree right in front of my house. I called 911 after hearing the enormous crash when they hit the tree. I was doing what I could to keep the guys in the car from trying to get out of the car--they were so dazed neither one of them had any clue of how injured they were or that they would need to be cut out of the car. They lived. The guy who got hit died two days later. I didn't even realize they hit someone until the people who owned house and lot where the guy landed started yelling like hell for the cops and paramedics that he was there. The driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter and other charges related to the intoxicated use of a motorvehicle resulting in death. Turns out his BAC came back as being barely high enough to equal having one beer--it turns out he had a seizure as he rounded the corner onto our street and lost control of the car. It was his first seizure. I can't even fathom how that man must feel...Proof that a fatal accident can happen anywhere at any time...with no one at fault...sobering, indeed.
From: neowolf2 Date: April 8th, 2006 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
What you had there was a 21-year old who died in part because he wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Ejections are very often fatal, since you collide with the ground at high speed, often head-first, and sometimes the car lands on you.

Buckle up, folks. You should feel naked in a car if you don't have a seatbelt on.
wolfbrotherjoe From: wolfbrotherjoe Date: April 9th, 2006 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)
It's pretty simple.

You feel bad because you don't feel like you did anything.

You know you did something, and would have done something, but none of it really panned out to any direct assistance. And you know that if circumstances had been different, you would have had direct assistance.

But what we know and what we feel are often two different things.
nekosensei From: nekosensei Date: April 9th, 2006 01:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you're being too hard on yourself. You did everything that you could do, and when you knew you weren't qualified to help, you got out of the way so others with more knowledge could.
equivocally_me From: equivocally_me Date: April 10th, 2006 01:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

car accident

Am I going to be the only one who thinks you may be disturbed less by your inability to help (more than you did), and more by the idea that you could be in an accident and without anybody to help? Worse, without anybody to notice? ...That because you initially wondered what idiot had pulled over there, you then felt guilty and cold when it turned out to be a serious accident?

Not that I think YOU felt particularly this way, Fer. Or that it'd be unique if you did. That's just where my reaction lands me this afternoon. (It's a good think I'm seeing someone tomorrow, I think.)
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