Nov 19

Watched a Man Get Killed Today: Misc Thoughts and AAR Comments

Today I was witness to a very violent car accident which left one driver literally in pieces, it happened right in front of me on the highway while traveling around 75 mph.  Since I was on the scene immediately I was able to quickly assess the situation and provide help when necessary before first police/fire arrived around 5 minutes later.  Once everything was wrapped up (which included putting the deceased guy’s parts and pieces into bags) I had plenty of time to sit and think about how I should have done things differently, including how my kit is structured within my vehicle….specifically my emergency first aid kit.

A Normal Day…Or Not.

It was early afternoon and I was traveling on the highway about 1 hour away from my destination, cruising at 75 mph and thinking about the various activities I needed to conduct upon arrival to my destination.  I already had a hotel room booked and it was going to be a late evening, the plan was to grab a few hours and then hump it back to the office in the morning to continue to work back near home.   At that point I saw the tail end of a white van shoot across the median about 300-500 meters to my front followed instantly by an enormous cloud of white smoke as it hit a semi truck just rear of the cab at full speed.  Flying debris scattered everywhere and I immediately glanced and caught what mile marker I was at while hitting the 911 button on my phone.  In that split second I knew there were some seriously injured or dead people just up ahead, that’s how huge this impact was.  911 answered the call I I quickly blurted out what mile marker I was at on the highway while rolling to a stop and opening my door…I was sure they would get other calls.


My mental checklist was running as I jumped out of the car, I had surgical gloves in the side door pocket and everything from quik clot, Israeli bandages and a tourniquet in the trunk within reach.  No matter that stuff would take precious seconds to gather up, I needed to get to the van which was 20 meters to my front and sitting sideways across the lanes and smoking with the semi sitting another 20 meters beyond that.  The passenger side of the van was in bad shape but as I came around to the driver’s side (with the intention of checking on the victim) it became immediately clear that I needed to move on to the semi.

The driver’s side looked like it had been peeled back with a can opener.  The driver was sort of still in the seat but hanging down to the ground, almost cut in half, insides on the outside, anything above the shoulders completely unrecognizable.  Limbs were sort of….well they were not in good shape.  Nothing I could do here so I quickly moved to the semi which was literally gushing diesel out of it’s tank.

I came around to the passenger side and there was already another guy attempting to help the driver out who was clearly in shock.  He was worried about grabbing all of his things, mumbling about this and that while his truck was smoking and leaking, the only good news being that diesel is not as flammable as gasoline but still I did not want to take any chances.  Once the driver was out I went back to the van and started to warn some curious onlookers who started to wander up that if they went around to the other side of it, they would probably see something that they did not want to.  I also interacted with some traffic from the opposite lane telling them everyone who was there was alright and that help was on the way.

Action or Observation?

I don’t consider my actions remotely special but rather what I believe almost anyone would do in a similar situation.  People are hurt or potentially in need of assistance given the severity of the accident and location (not close to any major cities), who wouldn’t jump out of their car and run to assist?  Apparently not that many at all.  One guy was on scene to help me with the semi driver and a couple others migrated up asking what was going on but even 1-2 minutes after the accident with traffic stopped both ways on the highway the VAST majority just sat in their cars.  Maybe they were calling 911, maybe they were taking pictures, maybe they figured there was nothing they could do.  In any event I just remember wondering why more people weren’t running up to offer assistance.

After Action Review

I sat in my car about 20 yards from the van watching the firefighters cut out and then place the body parts of the deceased into a bag wondering what I could have done better.  Sure I was fortunate enough to be on the scene very quickly but I did make a few mistakes which mostly revolved around my emergency supplies.

What happened:  While I had all the right kit in my car it was dispersed all over the place.  In my door, in trunk in my survival bag.  I would have had to run back to the car, dig around and the run back to the victim.  Not good.

What should have happened:  As soon as I jumped out of the car I should have been able to yank on a small bag full of quick access emergency supplies, maybe just laying on the back seat.  Quick Clot, gloves, tourniquet, bandages et al.  EMS personnel took almost 5 minutes to arrive in this instance so what if one of the injured had an arterial bleed?  Bad news.

The Bottom Line

I thought I had it covered with respect to emergency medical supplies but when I had to move quickly today I realized my setup wasn’t optimal.  I know that there are quite a few EMS  types who read this blog so maybe you all can respond with tips as well.  I’m not thinking any of us need a super high-speed $500 medic bag in the back seat but it wouldn’t hurt to have all necessary items consolidated in a small pack which one could grab on the way out the door.  Thoughts?


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    • Roger on November 19, 2015 at 11:35 PM
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    The main reason that most people don’t even get out of their cars in a situation like this is fear! Fear that they might have to get involved; fear that they might see or do or worse not do something that might have a negative effect; fear they’ll get hurt; so much easier to sit in your vehicle and assume that someone else will do something, after all isn’t that what the cops and emergency people get paid to do? But what happens when the cops and/or other emergency personnel don’t come especially if they can’t come because the emergency is too large, too wide spread or even they’re the ones needing help? Does the ostrich really feel safe with it’s head in a hole? What if that person(s) needing help is your friend or relative or just someone’s (anyone’s) child? Are you going to be one of the unwilling onlookers or someone who took the time to learn CPR or other basic first aid and jumps in to help as best you can? Only you can decide! Make the right choice and prepare now! GLAHP!

      • PJ on November 19, 2015 at 11:44 PM
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      Good point on the neighbor aspect. I spoke with one of the firefighters while they were cleaning up, he didn’t know the guy but he said he lived just a few roads over from his own house. Honestly I wish I could have done something but he was gone upon impact, maybe before.

    • Erik J on November 21, 2015 at 7:50 AM
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    A remember once this summer after a bad thunderstorm rolled through there were several trees down blocking roads. I happened to be one of the only people that got out of their car and attempted to clear the debris to open the road again. This was a state road and traffic was starting to back up while just a handful out of the dozens of stopped cars were assisting. Nobody was moving until the problem was addressed yet they weren’t interested in helping themselves.

  1. My husband and I were the first ones at an accident in Mexico where the car had flipped upside down and pinned a woman’s head to the ground. Her terrible cries are still in my nightmares. No help in 5 minutes! No cell phones. We had to wait for more people to help and the second person drove for medical help. When someone came there were enough people to carefully lift the vehicle off her head. The gravel was thick enough to save her life and she left in an ambulance. It reminds me that cell phones bring help so fast that more people are saved. Not one of us had anything resembling a first aid kit. We are so reliant on emergency personnel being there and cleaning up injuries and deaths. I commend you for stopping to help and having supplies in your vehicle. Emergency medical triage is an area where I have no skill and no supplies. A reminder to get some training. I have wanted training in herbals, but this is different… and common.

      • PJ on November 24, 2015 at 10:45 PM
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      Thanks for sharing your experience. All of us definitely need to re-look our supplies and training.

    • J on November 29, 2015 at 11:38 AM
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    in response to your comment about supplies and organization, I have a few thoughts. I keep all of my stuff in a tackle box. you can keep things organized well and also grab it and take the whole thing with you easily. large bandages and duct tape fit in it, as well. duct tape is indispensable in emergency situations like that, in my opinion. when I served as military police, we kept a roll in our kit. remember, in this situation you are simply trying to keep them alive until the ambulance arrives, it’s all you can do. maintain breathing, stop bleeding and treat for shock, those are the priorities.

    PPE, some emergency blankets, duct tape, knife or scissors and bandages will all fit in a regular sized tackle box, should you want to consider this option.

    hopefully this isn’t too rambling of a post and it makes a bit of sense.

    • Jeanne on December 8, 2015 at 10:57 AM
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    As a retired ICU/ER RN you acted under the good Samaritan law. You did what you could. Here’s an example due to my training in some states more is expected. I once was on a ride around which the hospital had us go on with local paramedics. A tear in a femoral artery was going to put this man in jeopardy of loosing his life. Protocol called for a compression dressing, due to previous experience I stuck my gloved had on the vessel and held it together for the next 45 minutes .until my hand was replaced with surgical clamps. Come to find out there were two tears one on top and one on the bottom. I did what my level of knowledge is. Our level of knowledge is what the good Samaritan laws are about. The idea of helping out.

    • Andreeon on January 9, 2016 at 10:01 PM
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    What kinda items would be good to have and be on a budget also please? Not too much would have to be compact enough to fit in backseat floor board.

    • KC Doodle on January 27, 2016 at 3:01 AM
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    This is a very good real life experience that could have insite on what to prepare for if something like this happens again. I’m thinking maybe a little Document flat pack hanging on the back of the head rest, low enough to not block vision… Very accessable, but big enough for the few things mentioned…. hmmm. Interesting things to think about… Seat belt cutter tool with glass breaker… Mylar Space blanket to cover tramatic body parts… with weights, or magnets for corners. You may need to access these things to escape, too… and an escape hood to eliminate fumes of multi vehicle accidents? I’ve seen results of fires that were actually projected into a football sized field burnt clean…after the fact. Added to the things you have mentioned as scattered all over the vehicle.. same here. This is fair notice to organize better! Thanks…

    • ssgtnelson on March 6, 2016 at 1:54 PM
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    A few years ago I read an article about a man, literally, beating a child to death in front of a crowd. Not a single person tried to help the child other than screaming and calling 911. Very sad.

    • mica on July 24, 2016 at 4:58 PM
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    During a medical emergency/accident, more is merrier does not apply.You don’t need 2 dozen people ‘helping’? Any more than 2-3 people you are in the way or just a spectator.

    • Jarrett on September 7, 2016 at 5:13 PM
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    This is what I carry, the link is just for the roll. You can tailor the contents.

    Blackhawk Emergency Medic Roll
    SKU #: BPG-20EMR1BK

    • FF D on November 5, 2016 at 10:56 PM
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    I have two toss packs, one on each side of vehicle, that contain bandages/tape/gloves and roller gauze. This can deal with most life
    threatening things. I love your idea of having Israeli bandage and/or quick clot.
    Only problem is expiration and heat. I have a quick triage bag that has color tape and more of the throw-bag items.
    To those who don’t have training…PLEASE get some from an organized class wherever you can get it. Some fire depts even host FA classes for the public.
    As a former instructor and FF/EMT-I I have rolled up on a few scenes and been able to recruit others who stopped so I guess it depends on where you live and how many other CERT/FF/EMT folks will stop to help.

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