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?