ago I wrote this true account (at least, true as I saw it) of a
motor vehicle accident ("MVA") on State Highway One
just north of Plimmerton. It was published in the New Zealand
Listener, and on the internet on several sites around the world.
I have received a number of messages from people who felt
positive about it, including a school in the United States who
are using it in their anti-drink driving classes, and a paramedic
whose wife said that it allowed her to understand his work for
the first time.
If you have an educational use for "MVA, 1am", please feel free to use it.
Frantic scurrying in the back of the truck, bunker coats, reflective jerkins, latex gloves under our leather ones. Suddenly there, all leaping into the black unknown through our different doors. Grabbed the High Pressure hose from its reel, undid its brake, dragged it like a mad bastard towards the knot of police and stopped drivers who were standing on the roadside, looking down into the deep ditch where the car was bound to be. Late model, white, balanced precariously about 45 degrees over on its side, straddling a narrower but even deeper ditch. The ringing cold air betrays the darkness - "Three trapped! Three trapped!".
A figure in street clothes runs, grabs Ian, demands a scoop stretcher. "We don't carry those, ambulance'll be here in a minute". "Jesus! Every decent fire engine's got them on! Shit!" he accuses, plunges down the bank again onto the unstable car. The police seemed too preoccupied to care, so we leave him there, carry on. For now we won't dispute his ownership. I run back to 351, find the heavy rescue line. Returning with it nearly ran straight into by a guy with a skinhead, covered in blood. Two ambulance guys and a cop grab him, guide him away. "I need to go back down, I need to go back!" The driver? His eyes wide, really wide. Sirens approaching from all directions, helicopter or the thought of one in the distance.
I slide down the steep bank, but loose control, crash towards the bottom, skittle two firefighters - yelling, they think the car is falling on them. They forgive, I don't... Who the hell am I? Fucking shit! Who the hell am I?
My job to ensure the car doesn't tip over onto the rescuers working around the low side. Tie a heavy line to the central roof support, yelled for every free person on the scene to hang onto it. Someone hears, frantic action, tension in the air, tension on the line. Later its necessary to cut the roof off, the line being shifted to the back roof support. I call for the centrepunch to break through the rear quarterlight window, the only unsmashed window in the car. I realised then that there was another kid in the back seat, so I got a blanket to protect their face from the breaking glass.
For quite a few minutes we cover him, touch his shoulder, talk to him. I stare at a deep cut in his arm for several seconds before I slowly realise why its attracted my attention - its not bleeding. Should have realised this boy was dead, but no-one told us. Pull the blanket completely off and see the deep wound in his back where his spinal column had been. We cover him again, but a bloodied hand and one foot in its pristine Doc Martins boot are at such unnatural and strange angles the blanket is too small to cover them.
Three probationary firefighters, never seen anything like this before. We keep talking to them as we have time, trying to help them focus on what theyre doing... every few minutes I look again and find them staring at the body, or at something in the distance I can't see. Their lives will never be exactly the same - not worse really, just not ever the same. Something taken, something given. Perhaps they already knew.
Working with the heavy, awkward Jaws of Life... cutting the roof off... it's necessary to move one of the oxygen bottles... the only place it would be out of the way was the back seat.... an older fireman reaches over and places it in the arms of the dead boy.... "don't think he'll mind" he mutters to himself, smirking embarassedly when seeing I've heard him.... two half laughs.
Two most seriously trapped, both front passengers, the girl on the boy's knee. Now utterly wedged between the seat, the crushed wreckage of the dashboard, the wall of the ditch the car had come to rest in. A deathly embrace. A woman's whimpering and faint screams, continuously for the hour it takes to get her out. Its a good sign, she's got the energy to fight.
"Leave me alone! Leave ME! I'll get myself out! LEAVE ME!!!!".
A bloodied arm shoots from the wreckage, grasps a fireman by the collar, has to be prized off. We are hurting her so badly, so very very, very badly. We're her friends, her worst tormentors. Words of rationalisation in the air, thoughts in every head, rebellious notions in every guts.
Both with broken legs, severe internal damage, many less serious injuries. Chantelle, the woman, had bit her lower lip almost completely off. White teeth showing through fruit pulp flesh. Both covered in blood, some their own, some from their dead friend who must have been crammed up against them both immediately after the crash. A knot of ambulance officers crowded in amongst it all, their bright yellow jackets heavily stained with blood and other body fluids. The milky white roof lining lying on the grass, a very large, visceral stain in one corner, still liquid.
Finally we get the boy out too, carried his stretcher awkwardly up the steep bank to the waiting helicopter. Brown bottle glass crunches underfoot.
At least one dead, probably more by today. These six kids chose an unnewsworthy way to be irreparably damaged and to die. You probably won't hear any more about it. Maybe it'll get a paragraph in the Post tonight. Shame there wasn't a cute dog in there to rescue.
Crushed cars don't have simple angles.
As a carload of six drive north a man thrashes through a horrible dream... a young man is going to die, nothing can be done. Nothing can save him. He wakes suddenly, sweating. Ten minutes later he still lays there, wondering what it might mean. Hes seen a lot of real death that hasnt affected him like this dream has. The familiar thin fire siren whine steals into the room. He pulls the blankets over his head like a child. "Arent you going?" asks his wife, rolling towards him. "I cant!" he says, "Hes already dead - theres nothing I can do. I cant go to this one". Its 1am.
A probationary firefighter has just got home after his first real fatality. He moves awkwardly, afraid to touch anything with his hands that seem to him pulped now, fruit pulped like those lips. Hes afraid of leaving bloodstains where he touches. His fingers look normal, but hes caught it somehow. Everything hurts.