The other day there was a local news blurb about a horrible traffic accident. It brought back memories of an accident that this Bear was witness to about a dozen or so years ago.
I was with my ex-wife (Carole). We were at a convention in Cincinnati (Convention Center). I helped close up the booth and, since it was around 1:00 PM, Carole and I walked the Skywalk, found a resturant/pub, and went in. Luckily I had my thinking cap on and only had a single beer, with a burger. (Driving in strange city.)
Leaving downtown Cincy we jumped on the I-75 Northbound expressway. The traffic was moderate and moving at posted speed. As we went over a slight hill I noticed that all the traffic in our multiple lane expressway was stopped, about a quarter mile or so ahead. I started to pump my brakes to warn those behind me of the traffic stoppage ahead.
We were in the far left lane, with a semi-truck next to us on the right. as we were slowing I noticed a semi-truck behind us, moving very fast. While coming to a stop I also began inching over into the lane with the truck next to us. The fast-moving truck behind us showed no signs of slowing.
"What are you doing?", Carole shouted as I squeezed into the middle lane, forcing the truck next to us to squeeze into the right lane. As we did this and came to a stop very close to the stopped traffic, the trailing semi blew by us on the right.
I shouted back at Carole, "I had to get the xxxx out of the way!"
The big semi (carrying a 48-foot trailer of powdered bulk cement) crashed into the stopepd cars in front us. The first car he hit was a Camaro. It exploded on contact. He hit a few other cars, with those vehicles also exploding. A women jumped out of one (1) of the cars and, in an obvious panic, crawled across the expressway. (She wasn't physically hurt.)
Carole and I were so close to the Camaro, now burning out of control, that we could feel the heat trhough our windshield. I immediately started backing-up, aware as I did, that oncoming traffic was still coming toward us. I'm sure that the sight of multiple burning cars helped slow them down, and protect us from crash.
I jumped out of the truck and, with the driver of the car that stopped behind us, ran to the Camaro. We could not get within about twenty (20) feet because of the intense flames. (If you know Cincy, this happened just across from the Evendale General Electric Plant.)
Eventually, I was interviewed by police and TV newspeople. I had to sit in my truck and write a written account of what I witnessed. Knowing that the driver of the Camaro suffered a horrible death certainly dampened my spirits for months afterward. (And knowing that if I was a minute earlier in the back-up it could have been us.)
A few months later we had to return to Cincinnati. I was the chief prosecution witness for the trial of the truck driver. (He was not even a real driver. His company would put untrained sales guys on the road with these big rigs, so they could "learn the business".)
I met the driver before the scheduled trial and we talked for a few minutes. He was an emotional wreck.
The most horrible part: We then met the mother of Sean, the 18-year old who died in the Camaro. His mother worked for an area EMT unit and when the accident call came across the wire she mentioned to another EMT that she hoped Sean didn't get "caught in the traffic jam" that was caused by the accident. She knew her son was going to be on I-75, heading north, to his job.
She asked me: "I have to know. You were first to his car. Could you hear him screaming?" I told her the truth...."No. I heard nothing." She seemed relieved with this news (as any parent would be). All three (3) of us cried together and said a prayer for her lost son as we sat in the hallway, just outside of the courtroom.
The truck driver and the truck company settled that morning, before the trial ever started.
I have witnessed small (insignificant) crashes. But the Cincy crash and the hallway talk with Sean's mother will remain etched in a part of my brain that I don't like to open.