“Dad, I’ve been in a crash.”
Those were the tear-laden words my 13-year old son said to me at 8:00 this past Friday morning. He had been out all night at a church “lock out” – an all night escapade where the middle school youth do all sorts of activities like cosmic bowling, a midnight viewing of a movie, seeing the sunrise at the beach. The group was headed back to the church for the end of the lock-out…and were literally only a mile away.
Apparently a pick-up truck cut the church van off and then slowed suddenly to turn right. Witnesses say that the pick-up didn’t use a turn signal. The van didn’t stop in time and hit the back of the pick-up, pushing it into three other cars. The van then continued through the intersection and hit a concrete telephone pole. Initially we had been told it was a direct head-on hit, but we later learned that it was more to the passenger side of the front end.
My wife and I were pretty scared as we drove up to the crash site. The drive normally takes ten minutes, but it was rush hour. I had my blinkers on and drove as aggressively as I could to get there quickly. We got a call from a friend who arrived on scene before we got there. His report was that there was some blood, but generally everyone looked OK. That helped calm our fears down a little….at least until we rounded a corner and saw what seemed like every fire-rescue vehicle in Jacksonville. Literally, I think there were four fire trucks and half a dozen ambulances. I guess when you hear that there’s a church van accident, you take every precaution possible.
When we got to Carter, he had a busted lip. He told us that he was a front seat passenger and had not been wearing his seat belt. He hit the dashboard – with his face. At first just his jaw hurt and teeth. I was concerned about a possible broken jaw. He was in a neck brace and just sitting on a brick wall. As my wife, the paramedics and I talked to him, he shared that he thought he had been knocked unconscious. Upon hearing that, the EMT’s immediately put him on a backboard and transported him to a local trauma center. Turns out that another boy had also been unrestrained and also hit the dashboard. He had already been transported to the hospital.
By the time I arrived at the hospital, they were well into trauma mode – they had examined my son and had taken x-rays. The initial diagnosis was good – fractured clavicle, no damage to cervical spine or jaw. Since he had hit his head, he was sent for a CAT scan – which thankfully came back clean. At the end of the day, he had a concussion, some lacerations on his face, and a fractured clavicle. He will be sore for a while, but will heal – at least physically. He’s still upset about the crash….he vividly remembers seeing the pole coming towards the front of the van, and he remembers hitting the dashboard. These are memories that he will likely carry for the rest of his life.
The other boy who was transported was kept overnight for observation, but was ultimately released as well. Several other kids in the van had bumps and bruises. Three had black eyes from where they had hit seats or had gotten hit by other passengers. One other boy also had a concussion.
Here’s the deal. Everyone was seriously lucky. This crash could have been so much worse. One of the kids could have been ejected through the windshield. A neck could have been broken. Thankfully, none of that happened. In my opinion, the hand of God was with them, protecting them.
So here’s the big question. Why didn’t he have his seatbelt on? We don’t know the answer to that. He always puts it on when he is with us. I guarantee that he will always wear his seat belt now, no matter what vehicle he’s in. And that’s a really good thing.
If nothing else, Carter got a really painful lesson in how to use good common sense. But it could have been so much worse.
Please do me a favor. Whenever you get into a vehicle – your’s, your friend’s, a rental car bus, whatever. If there’s a seat belt, put it on. It could literally be a life changer.