January 21st, 2008


here to tell the tale

s many of you already know, directly or indirectly from welfy's journal, I wrecked and totalled my truck a little over two weeks ago. With the exception of a short trip to Florida for a family wedding, I've been at home for the past two weeks dealing with insurance companies and replacing various personal items that were lost or damaged in the crash. I thought some of you might be interested to know the details of the wreck and I'm sure all of you would be interested in seeing the pictures. Now that I finally have some time on my hands, I thought I'd try to get back in the LJ saddle and ride.

I was driving across Montana, heading for the west coast on Friday, January 4th. I had stopped in Billings around lunch time for fuel and food. The sky was clear, it was warm, and the roads were dry. It was a little breezy, but nothing to be concerned about. A couple of hours later, I was in Livingston, MT. It's a small town which sits at the entrance to the canyon which leads into Bozeman on I-90. Livingston sits north of a natural wind-breaker and the interstate by-passes the town utilizing this rise in the land.

It was a little after 2 in the afternoon and I was climbing this rise in the truck when I noticed emergency vehicles on the side of the road at the crest of it in a curve. I checked my left mirror, changed to the left lane, and began reducing my speed. As I neared the top of the hill, I began to notice the wind picking up. As I came around the curve and crested the hill I saw three semis on their side on the side of the road and a recreational camper that was rolled over as well. Just as I was thinking to myself, "Wow, I wonder how they got all tangled up with each other?" my seat started to rise. Of course it was rising because the entire left side of my truck was rising. The wind at the top of this natural windbreaker was gusting up to 80mph I was told later. In a matter of seconds gravity was on the wrong side of me and I was suspended from my seat by the safety belt. My windshield cracked and I lost all visibility for the rest of my ride as Sally and the trailer she was pulling laid over on her side at 50mph.

With that kind speed and inertia, I skidded on my side for a while. I hate to sound cliche, but time began to slow. What probably was less than 5-10 seconds seemed like an eternity while I was suspended there, hanging onto the useless steering wheel trying to take some of the pressure of the seat belt off my side with my arms. The roof caved suddenly causing the plastic molding above me crash in on my right shoulder and arm, but thankfully not my head. I couldn't figure out why this was happening since, judging from where the gravity was, I was still on my side. The windshield was beginning to tear away as well and a combination of oil and antifreeze was beginning to sprinkle my face.

This is probably the only time in my life when I honestly and truly believed that my own death was a distinct possibility. In this way I wasn't cliche. My life didn't flash before my eyes. I didn't think of my kids. I didn't think of my wife. I was concentrating on two things. The first of these is that I was trying to hold myself as "high" in the vehicle as possible (the door above) while keeping my head away from the caving roof. The second is that I was concentrating on my own... consciousness. I don't mean that I was trying to stay conscious; I was perfectly alert and lucid. I was concentrating on the experience of my own consciousness since I had no idea with each passing second if it was going to be the last one.

The truck finally came to rest. Amazingly, the engine was still running so I reached down (er, up I guess technically) and turned the key to kill the motor. Diesel fuel is not particularly flammable, in fact, you'd be lucky to ignite it with a pocket lighter, so I wasn't immediately concerned about that. What I was worried about, though, was another truck coming through there and being blown over like I was. Gravity was still on my right. The roof of the cab was completely collapsed into the passenger seat and down between the two seats. Propping the weight of my body against the collapsed roof, I was able remove the seat belt. I pulled the latch on the door, turned my body slightly and pushed it up and open with my foot.

Now the fun part.

Using the steering wheel as a grip and the collapsed roof behind me, I pulled myself out of the truck, not unlike crawling out of a manhole. Once out though, I had limited options. The door was swung wide to my right and the highway was in front of me. I had skidded out of the left lane, across the right lane and across then off the shoulder into the grass. I turned to look behind me and... imagine my surprise to see the underframe and wheels of a flipped passenger vehicle beneath me. Just then, the wind gusted and blew me off the truck. On my way backward, I slowed my fall by grabbing the frame of my driver-side mirror. It gave me just enough time to aim my foot for the side of my motor, as the hood of my truck was completely gone. I landed on my ass on top of the flipped vehicle that was laying mostly under my truck.

Now I was worried about the possibility of a fire or explosion. Diesel's one thing, gasoline is something else. I scrambled off of the passenger vehicle as quickly as I could. A few feet away was an SUV with the rear end all smashed-up. I located a couple of bewildered looking policemen on the other side of the wreck. They asked if I was okay, which I was. I turned to look back at the vehicles now that I was a safe distance from them.

I had hit two vehicles after being blown over, flipping one of them. Both of them had decals on the side of them reading "Park County Sherrif." Both of them were newer model Dodge Durango SUVs. My own safety now secure, my next fear was for the potential passengers of the two Durangos. I asked the deputy if anyone had been in the vehicles and he assured me that no one was and that everyone was okay.

I don't fuck-up very often, but when I do, boy do I do it right.

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And that's the story. Now for the fun stuff. Pictures!

This photo gives the best overall view of the truck and trailer laying on its side. You can barely see the wheels of the flipped Durango off to the far right.

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