All in a days work,
Today started like any other day, woke up at 5:15am, drove to work, picked up my Van and trailer and headed to Red Deer and Innisfail to do service and repair work.
In Red Deer I installed a 72” Samsung TV that was repaired at one location and then off to a second location to install some cooling fans in a cabinet that was overheating and replace a component video amplifier that failed due to the excess heat.
Next it was off to Innisfail for a routine service call at another location then a quick stop for gas and 240km’s back to Edmonton.
Pretty much a regular day up until 4:00pm when 4km’s from my shop a 64 year old lady driver pulled out of oncoming traffic to make a left hand turn and blocked both lanes 60 feet in front of my Van traveling at 60km’s per hour and pulling my trailer and heading directly at her.
The lady had blocked both my lanes and left me with a dilemma what to do? there was no where to go, I couldn’t swerve around her she was too far into the intersection, I couldn’t make a right hand turn at the upcoming corner it was too sharp, I was traveling to fast and the odds are I would end up in the oncoming lane of traffic if I turned right, straight ahead was a guard rail and then steep embankment and ditch, my choices quickly became
1 – hit the lady directly in front of me making the left hand turn or
2 – veer to the right and hit the guard rail and take my chances with the embankment and ditch.
For a moment I felt like Captain Sully do I try for the airport or put her down in the Hudson river?
By now I was honking my horn, stepping on the brakes, my antilock brakes were cycling and I could feel the trailer brakes as well, In a split second decision I decided to take my chances with the guard rail at least that way I wouldn’t risk injuring another person and thought perhaps the damage may be less to my vehicle, veering to the right I hit the guard rail square and momentarily became airborne, not a easy feat for a 8,000 lb van and 7,500 lb trailer. I had another Sully moment when I went over the rail similar to what Captain Sully must have thought when the fuselage of his plain first touched the water in the Hudson river, Hold on I thought to myself this isn’t going to be pretty.
The guard rail wasn’t as firm as I though it would be and the scraping of the undercarriage along the guard rail made a loud and eerie sound then a thump, the back end of the van jumped up in the air propelling me forward as the shoulder strap of my seat belt tightened. Looking ahead was an ominous sight, the embankment and ditch was much steeper than I thought and there was no level ground to steer toward. Making matters worse at the bottom of the embankment was a heavy duty equipment yard and chain link fence. I don’t want to hit that I thought and began to steer to the right bracing myself for what I thought would be a certain roll over. The first axle of the rear tires of the trailer hit the guard rail with a loud bang followed by the second axle and then the undercarriage of the trailer. Thankfully the trailer slowed my speed and decent down the embankment allowing the van and trailer to skid and slide and eventually come to rest at a angle perpendicular to the slope of the embankment in the ditch.
I made it I thought to myself! I didn’t roll over which I thought was a certainty.
Of course all this happened in a matter of about three seconds but keeps playing in my mind right now in slow motion.
Once the van stopped I unbuckled my seat belt and opened the drivers door which instantly swung open and caused me to fall from the drivers seat onto the ground due to the force of gravity and the angle of the slope I was on.
The first emotion was jubilation – I survived and didn’t hurt or kill anyone, followed by the bitter sweet reality of NOW WHAT? What kind of damage was done to the van and trailer? how will I get the van out of the ditch? What about the hassle of dealing with insurance and repairs and claims.
It’s amazing how reality brings us back down to life. A couple of telephone calls and 4.5 hours later the police came, the tow trucks came and the van and trailer were winched out of the ditch and I was back on my way to the shop.
Finally at 9:10pm I dropped the damaged Van and Trailer off at the shop, that’s enough for today, time to go home and deal with the aftermath of this event in the morning.
Once home – time for a couple emails back to clients, my head now pounding and feeling in kind of woozy, my left shoulder and torso also achy and oddly enough a sensitivity to bright light.
11:45pm – emails sent, clients updated, blog post written, time for some rest and recuperation. – What’s in store for tomorrow more of the same I guess but I hope nobody decides to cut me off by making a left hand turn right in front of me again … ever!
If you were to ask Captain Sully what the odds are he could successfully land another plane in the Hudson river, he would say “I’d rather not try again thanks”. The same goes for me! Jumping over a guard rail inside 15,000 lbs of vehicle at 45km’s per hour to avoid killing or injuring someone is one experience I hope I never have to relive.
And that folks is the real life true story of a day in the life (July 19, 2011) of Systems Integrator Doyle Serink.