Car Crash
...or "What I did on my Xmas vacation"

The entire story of what happened isn't clear exactly, but basically we were at a dead stop on I-35W when the car behind us was rear-ended by an illegal alien, thus ramming that car into us.  The idiot had no license or insurance, but is thankfully in jail now and the case is pending.

It doesn't look so bad from this angle...

...But you can see the damage a little better over here.

That's the bumper sticking out of the window for safe keeping.

Dude, where's my trunk?

I was to be headed out of town a couple days later, so my suitcase was in the trunk.  Luckily, it was on the right side,  so it wasn't squashed as happened with the right side.

Someone on the scene was gracious enough to help pry one side of the trunk open with a crowbar he had handy.

The digi-cam was in the suitcase, in case you're wondering.

On a positive note, at least the tail light wasn't broken!

The police interpret the scrapes on this side as coming from a collision with the concrete divider that was on the opposite side of the car!

Note that most of the images from here on look a bit blurry.  The reason for this is that the camera was passed around in the hospital waiting room and it was accidentally switched to "close-up" mode, a fact I wasn't aware of until I pulled the images off of the camera.
Here's Dani, out of the neck brace finally and taking a break between dizzy spells just before she threw up again.

Apparently this was from a relatively mild impact with the steering wheel (we were both wearing seat belts, of course).

"My girlfriend's car is totaled and I got was this lousy scratch." 

I'm not sure there this came from, but given the regular pattern, my pet theory has something to do with an abduction by UFOs.

Update: No, it wasn't aliens after all.  Apparently, Dani's work bag flew up from the back seat and the rubber pads across the bottom caught me.

The next day at the tow yard...

These last few pics are blurry because the camera was accidentally set to "close-up" mode.  Hey, it's a miracle it survived at all considering it was in the trunk at the time of the impact!

Note that this one window survived intact.

Abstract art or evidence for the trial?

Several of these photos have been forwarded to the detective in charge of the case.

And another view.

Somewhere beneath the driver's side tail light portion of the trunk is Pearl the Pug's food, medicine, toys, and a rubber boot from our last expedition; none of which could be extracted. 

Pearl was in the front seat on my lap and survived with relatively minor bruises.

This is where Pearl would have been in the back had I brought the pet carrier.

The other side of the back seat is not nearly this bad, which is reflective of the fact that I escaped serious injury whereas Dani spent the night in a neck brace getting x-rays and CT scans.

This is a spot on the back of my arm where something (maybe Dani's work bag?) hit.  This pic was taken on 1/4/04 and the bruise still hadn't gone away.

This account is a bit jumbled, but it's a start at providing a narrative of what happened.

Dani came up to Denton to get me.  I was going to go to Louisiana for the xmas holidays to visit my parents.  Since I lived alone, I wanted to leave my car there so my place wouldn't look abandoned.  Dani came up and picked me up and we were heading down I-35W.  We were a couple miles from downtown FW, near where 35W crosses the Trinity River, when we reached a spot where traffic was at a near-standstill.

There was a wreck in the far right lane that had the next couple lanes closed off as well by police, road flares, etc.  The only lane that was open was the one on the far left, so it was taking forever for people to get through to this bottleneck.  We sat in place for quite a while just talking.  I had a foster dog, Pearl the Pug, with me on my lap.  We were going to deliver her to the foster coordinator the next morning since they had found a home for her.  I didn't bother bringing the crate for her since she was very well-behaved (except around other dogs or cats) and I was only going to have her for a few more hours.

So we were sitting in traffic when Dani noticed someone speeding up in the rear view mirror.  I honestly don't know what she saw, who was already behind us, etc., but she said, "I don't think he's going to stop."  A split second later we were being smashed every which way.  I sort of tunnel-visioned at that point and things became that cliched slow-motion effect everyone describes in moments like this.

I knew what was happening as soon as we were hit (though thankfully not until that moment so I didn't freeze up and end up really sore).  I remember my window breaking next to me, but I knew not to look in that way in case glass flew in my direction.  Pearl was bouncing every which way on my lap.  She literally bounced against the dashboard, against me, and repeatedly back and forth again until she found her way to the floorboard at my feet.  Meanwhile Dani was being thrown forward and all around as well.  She had apparently been knocked unconscious, probably by hitting her head against the steering wheel (we were, of course, wearing seat belts).  I put my arm out across her chest to hold her back in her seat, even though that probably wouldn't have done a lot of good.

I never really kept up with where exactly our car went, but it apparently spun more than 360 degrees, which made sense if you saw pictures of the impact (i.e., off to one corner).  The direct evidence was that we had scrapes from the guard rail on my side of the car in spite of the fact that the guardrail was on the driver's side of the road.  Go figure.

So anyway.  Like I said, at the time of the impact I had tunnel vision was was pretty much exclusively focused on Dani.  I honestly didn't think about much else like what exactly to do next, try to get out of the car, who exactly hit us, are we going to get hit again sitting in the middle of the road like we are, etc.  Instead, I concentrated on keeping her head straight up in case her neck was damaged.  She was, of course, unconscious and not really responding.  Her eyes were barely open, but she was completely unresponsive.  I didn't even begin to know where her phone was, let alone how to use it (I didn't know her password, etc.).  I really couldn't dig around in the car to look.  The entire car was filled with broken glass since all except for the rear passenger's side window were smashed and the back seat that normally separates the trunk from the inside of the car was now just a few inches away from the back of Dani's seat.  As badly as Pearl was bounced around, she probably would have been killed had we placed her in a crate back there.

Some Hispanic guys were passing at one point on the left lane (the shoulder, actually), and they offered me theirs.  Unfortunately, they didn't speak much (if any) English.  They were just holding the phone up like maybe I would want to use it.  I pointed to Dani with my free hand and signaled for them to call 911.  I don't know if they did or not since they moved on.

I'm not sure how much time passed, but Dani began breathing really strangely while we were sitting there waiting for help.  It was almost a comical version of the exhale half of a snore.  The kind where you expel air to make your lips flap around all silly.  This was really scary because her eyes were barely open but she was completely out of it and unresponsive.  Obviously, I didn't have a flashlight handy to test her pupils for the Edinger Westphal reflex, so I was getting worried as I had no way to know how severe the damage was.

My cousin had been in a bad car accident years before this and was in a coma for weeks.  She finally came out of it but with brain damage that left her like a seven year-old ever since.  That prospect was flashing before my eyes.  Dani also had a drop of blood rolling down her face from a small cut made by a piece of shattered glass.  That only added to my fears at that point.

Gradually she started coming around.  I got her to talk to me a little bit, but she was clearly confused.  She knew something bad had happened but couldn't keep up with what was going on.  I explained that we had been in a car accident and that she needed to stay still until help came.  She seemed okay with this but was still very confused and would ask things that she had already asked earlier.  At one point she started crying.  I took advantage of her confusion and asked her why she was crying.  She thought about it and realized that she didn't really have a reason.  "I don't know," she said.  "Well then, don't," I said.  So she stopped.  Then a few minutes later she would start crying again and the cycle would repeat.

She also threw up the Taco Bell burrito we had while in Denton earlier that night, which was especially unpleasant because I had to hold her head upright and steady throughout.  And to be perfectly clear, absolutely nothing is more gross to me than vomit.  Oddly enough, since that time, I really haven't been affected by it the way I used it.  Prior to that event, I probably couldn't have told this story without gagging nonstop for several minutes even after I changed the subject.  Not so now.

Somewhere during all this, a guy who was an off-duty paramedic showed up with his girlfriend.  They had been passing through on the interstate and stopped when they saw no help had yet arrived.  The girlfriend took Pearl (who, after yipping during the accident, had now calmed considerably in spite of the strangeness of the circumstances), and the paramedic guy stayed with Dani and evaluated her by questioning her.

Several ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, and tow trucks finally showed up in rapid succession and Dani was moved into one of the ambulances.  I haven't mentioned any damage to myself at this point because there was none as far as I could tell at that time.  It wasn't until later at the hospital with Dani that I started to find the few minor injuries I had.  For example, I had a pattern of burning scrapes in a couple of parallel rows on the back of my left shoulder.  Each scrape was perfectly square, four on one row and two on another.  It was almost like a UFO landing site or something.  We later determined this to have been caused by the rubber pads on the bottom of a work bag of Dani's that had flown forward in the car, obviously at a high rate of speed.  Remarkably, I never noticed anything like this.

I also had a large bruise on the back of my left arm, which was again likely caused by back seat junk (which Dani usually has in abundance even to this day).  Finally, there was another sharp pain caused by something else (probably something small and heavy) hitting me hard and fast on my left temple.  I think both of these latter two occurred when I was trying to hold Dani in place in her seat.  The funny thing about the bruise was that, when I went to visit my parents a few days later, I kept the story of the accident from them to keep them from worrying about either of us.  As a result, I had to take care to always wear long sleeves around my parents, even though the house was plenty warm.

So back to the story.  Once Dani was in the ambulance, she was pretty much out of the picture.  I got her cell phone from her purse somewhere during all of this (I don't even remember when) and she was lucid enough now to tell me the passcode to get the phone working.  I called her dad and had him pick me up on the interstate (which was gradually beginning to open up as the wreck(s?) was(were?) cleared).

While I was waiting, I was able to get help from a couple of cops/firemen to pry the crumpled trunk open so I could get out my suitcase, which had survived only by chance by virtue of being on the side that wasn't completely crushed.  I had brought the suitcase for the trip to Louisiana in a few days and didn't know if we would ever see the car again.  I happened to realize I had my camera in there, so I dug that out and snapped a handful of pictures of the wrecked car.

Also while talking to the cops, I was also able to find out from the guys at the scene that the driver who hit us attempted to flee the accident.  At first he tried to get away in his truck which somehow was still running, but he was forced to go against traffic which made it impossible, so he bolted on foot, but was quickly apprehended by cops arriving at the scene.  I have no idea whatever happened to him, but he was supposedly an illegal alien with no driver's license, no insurance, etc.

Finally Dani's dad arrived and picked me and Pearl up.  We dropped her off at the house and headed on to the hospital.  They had Dani in a neck brace and gave her a CAT scan and x-rays, but she seemed to be in good shape if a bit shaken.  The hospital staff was pretty clueless about giving us an idea when the results would be back.  It wasn't until around 7am that Dani was finally discharged.  She was really sore, and we figured she must have bumped her head against the steering wheel based on the bruised impressions on her front teeth pressed into the back of her upper lip.

Poor little Pearl was pretty sore as well.  She had seemed all right up to the time when we dropped her off the night before.  She was normally very energetic, and she was the same when Dani's dad picked us up, but when we returned home the next morning, she was really reluctant to move.  For example, she would sit in the hallway and watch us come and go, and she would wag her tail excitedly the whole time, but she didn't want to move, which was completely out of character for her.  She just wanted to be carried everywhere.

We didn't even get any sleep before we headed over (in Dani's dad's car, now borrowed) to meet up with the foster coordinator to take her, and we told him about our misadventures the night before.  He held off on giving her over to the new family and had her x-rayed.  Fortunately, she didn't have any broken bones or anything, and went on to make a nice recovery over the next week or so.

I didn't have to leave for the airport for another day or two (I forget now exactly), so I stayed with Dani during that time.  She had memory problems that I went into before, but those are pretty much gone now.  The worst of it was gone within about a month.

The day after the accident Dani, her dad, and I headed over to the tow yard to get her things out of her car.  A lot of it we just couldn't extricate from the twisted metal.  Some spaces were very tiny and covered with an intimidating layer of broken glass, so we couldn't get into them to pull anything out.  For example, we lost a pair of rubber boots that were pinched into the trunk too tightly to pull free.  We also lost a huge box of xmas cards/newsletters that Dani and I had made up.  She had printed them out and had addressed envelopes all ready to go, but they couldn't be salvaged.  She reprinted a few for close family, but that was all she had the energy to do other than that.

I think she missed a few days of work during this time.  However, I had Dani's dad drive me back up to Denton so I could get my car for her to use while I was in Louisiana (yes, I recognize the irony here).  I have no idea what happened to the driver who hit us.  We talked to a FWPD officer by phone about the case and I forwarded her pictures of the wrecked car, but I never followed up myself nor were we contacted for anything else regarding the case.

Dani's insurance turned out to be really good.  They gave her quite a bit on her car which was irrefutably totaled, as well as covering additional costs such as medical/prescription expenses not covered by her medical insurance.  In the end, it certainly wasn't something we would care to repeat, but it was quite the experience.

Accident: 12/27/03, approximately 12:30 am.

Copyright Racer Ale[X].

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