Tri-Cities I-82 Semi Head-On Crash: I Was First at the Scene
Everyone knows I drive to Seattle for every Seattle Seahawks game and have been doing it for years. This last Sunday I left my house around 5 am and headed out for the game like usual. About a mile outside Richland, I noticed a glow of a fire in the road up ahead. What happened next might have changed me forever.
"I Realized There Were No Police"
As I got closer to the fire, I could make out the silhouette of a pickup truck with the front smashed in, facing the ditch, and blocking the road. When I was about 50 yards or so from the pickup truck, I realized there were no police and that the fire behind the truck on the hill was actually an entire semi-truck on fire. That same instant I spotted a man lying in the road maybe 3 or 4 feet from the burning semi. Knowing there was no police, I quickly but carefully drove on the left shoulder around the truck through the debris and past the driver to park far enough away from the fire. Then I ran back to help.
The Driver was Laying Only Feet from the on-Fire Semi
It looked like the driver had only managed to throw himself out of his truck after it caught fire because he was only feet from the fire. As I ran back to the semi-driver, another man was running to help from the other side of the freeway. We both got to the semi-driver at almost the exact same time and asked him 2 quick questions to make sure we could move him. He was conscious but obviously in shock and hurt badly with severe injuries to both of his legs. The semi was completely on fire with 30 or 40 foot flames and we knew we had to get him out of there. The man grabbed the driver under one armpit while I grabbed the other and we dragged him across both lanes to the middle divide where it was safer. It took both of us to move him because the driver was a large man. Looking back, it was like being trapped in a movie.
We Pulled the Semi Driver to Safety Across the Road
The man that helped me was on the phone with 911 while we started to ask the driver questions and just keep him talking until more help arrived. The driver told us his name was Emilio and that he had been a truck driver for more than 20 years. We asked him what happened and all he would say was "crazy driver, crazy driver." I then grabbed my phone and shot a short video to get the face of the man helping me on film in case I had to identify him later. That is where most of these pictures come from but I will not share that video because it is graphic. Shortly after, we started to hear sirens and see some lights of an ambulance and the first police car. Both emergency vehicles drove and parked down by the pickup truck, and we realized that they didn't even know we were there.
I Ran Back Down to the Pickup
After realizing that they didn't see us, I ran down the freeway to the pickup and told the EMTs and the Sherriff about the semi-driver. One EMT went to the pickup and the other followed me down to help Emilio. I retold the story of what I just experienced to the officer as we quickly walked back to the semi-driver now being helped by the EMT. Since I did not see the accident happen and had done everything I could do, the officer said I could go. I walked back to my car and then recorded the following video just for proof of what I just went through. What happened to me after that moment, I did not expect to happen.
I was in Shock for at Least a Day
After being at the accident for about an hour, I drove to Seattle in silence shaking from the shock and adrenaline. I was still shaking when I reached Ellensburg and had to stop and call a friend. Even now I don't really remember much about the game or the drive to Seattle. I know we won but that is about it. That night I couldn't sleep or get the sequence of events out of my mind and even took the next day off work to process it. I was not ok and needed some time even though I was ashamed to feel that way. I felt I should have been tougher and not let it bother me, but my wonderful friends and family have told me differently. If you go through something like this, give yourself time to process and heal. Even though I was not the one injured, I was still in shock from being involved.
After the accident, I read the article "what to do to help accident victims" from wikihow.com. I didn't do everything perfectly according to their advice but I think I did alright for the circumstances. It might be good for you to read in case you have an experience of your own. The last picture from the day I posted in the article below. I took it at the game and I think you can see from my face that even 6 hours after the crash I was not ok. I am feeling better today but I don't think I will ever be quite the same. That morning will be with me for the rest of my life. The last thing I want to say is not to let my story scare you from getting out and helping in a similar situation. You may be the only one that can make a difference to save a life and believe me it is worth it.
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