Three years ago yesterday I was involved in a major traffic accident near Oxford. My family and I were returning from a week’s holiday in Weymouth on the south coast of England. A few days later I noticed a feature in the local paper that they had no news on our condition so I decided to write and tell them that we were OK. Here’s what I wrote:
I saw on your website that you had no news on the injuries sustained by those involved in the traffic accidents over the past few days
My family and I were in the people carrier that crashed at around 4:25pm on Friday evening which caused the closure of both carriageways. I am happy to report that my wife and three children are now all at home safely having had a very lucky escape nursing little more than cuts and bruises.
To sum up what happened we basically hit the central reservation barrier on the A43 somewhere between Chilton and Harwell. We bounced across the carriageway and then rolled at least two or three times before coming to a stop. The car landed on the driver’s side with its nose on the hard shoulder and the rest on the embankment pointing slightly back towards where we’d just came from. The boot door had come open and scattered all our belongings over the verge. This fortunately offered some of us an escape route.
After we came to rest I remember the girls saying, “Where’s mum?! Where’s mum?!” but because the car was on its side I’d lost all sense of where we were. For a terrible moment I thought she’d been thrown from the car but I was actually all but standing on her. By now other cars had stopped and I lifted my son up out through the smashed passenger window. The girls were able to get out through the back with some help.
<I tried to help my wife who was obviously upset but she was at least conscious. In an attempt to get her free I undid her seatbelt which ultimately made things more awkward because the angle she was lying at. A passerby got me to come out while others steadied the car because of its precarious position. Panic set in when someone pointed out the considerable amount of petrol that was leaking. The man initially blocked it with his finger and the pipe was subsequently wrapped – the danger these people put themselves for our benefit was unbelievable.
As me and my daughters we were looked after at the top of the embankment I could see the backed up traffic and the emergency service vehicles arrive. I could also see a complete axle including two wheels lying about 10 feet from the car. Our belongings everywhere – CDs were all over the place and guidebooks and leaflets from our holiday in Dorset from which we were returning from were scattered across the road.
My wife took about 30 minutes to be cut free and my son was being comforted by members of the public and medical professionals (some off duty). I remember looking by my feet at a bottle of pickle a good 30 feet from the car which I’d been using all week for our sandwiches. It was very surreal scene – you saw items which you recalled being involved in mundane situations but now in very different circumstances.
Thinking about the crash now I can only remember one second segments. I hear the sounds of the smashing glass, I see the horror on our kids’ faces and the crunch of metal on tarmac. It’s very vivid in my mind but it’s easier for me personally to cope with as we’ve come out relatively unscathed. Obviously if we hadn’t, it would be very, very different. I dread to think what may have happened if that petrol had caught light but fortunately that worst case scenario didn’t come to pass and we live to fight another day.
I have scratches and cuts on my head and left arm and my wife has a badly bruised and grazed shoulder and a blackeye. My son (8) was kept in hospital overnight with a cuts above and below his right eye and a broken nose which should all heal normally. My eldest daughter (12) has a sprained ankle while our youngest daughter (9) has minor cuts to her left arm and leg and to her neck. All in all we’ve been astonishingly lucky.
The police at the hospital and afterwards couldn’t do enough for us and made a difficult situation for us far easier and the medical staff were, of course fantastic too. The number of people who helped us since the incident to today has been amazing. All the emergency services were on the scene in next to no time and the police helicopters made sure that no chances were taken with our safety. As for the members of the public they were so brave to put themselves in danger like that for the sake of strangers – I am agog in admiration. I only wish I could thank everyone personally for all they did for us but if they want to contact us through the paper we’d be delighted to hear from them.
All in all we are so thankful that no other vehicle was involved in the accident and are so very sorry to have disrupted so many people’s journey home that evening. The most positive thing to come from the experience for me is that I have seen first hand that people really DO care and are prepared to do almost anything to help others when called upon. I would encourage people to keep this in mind when they are faced with trying circumstances in the future.