Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Near Death Experience on the 10 Freeway in Claremont

Last night as I was driving home on the freeway after a long day at work I had what basically amounted to the second closest thing to a near death experience that I have ever had.  It was about 11:30 pm and I was approaching the west bound Monte Vista Ave. exit on the 10 freeway.  In front of me there was a big rig in the left lane, a white car in the center lane and a black car in the right line.  Out of nowhere the white car and the truck struck each other and then the back end of the white car got loose, with the nose turning to hit to the black car in the right lane.  Then I, in my Mini Cooper, only twenty feet behind the accident, seeing that I had no where to go, gripped my steering wheel, shut my eyes and braced for a head on collision with the two cars and maybe the truck.

It must have only been a split second but if felt like an eternity...I waited for the feeling of the impact...but nothing happened.  I opened my eyes to find that somehow I had threaded the needle between the black car and the white car.  I could see the mangled wreckage of the two vehicles in my rear-view mirror.  Quickly, I pulled over to the right shoulder and called 911.  As I was relaying the information about the accident to the dispatcher I could see people crawling out of the two destroyed cars and walking along across the freeway.  But I couldn't see any movement in the truck which at this point was laying across the center divider with the cab of the truck on the east bound side of the freeway and the refrigeration unit of the truck on the west bound side of the 10.  Once I had relayed the information I grabbed the door handle and started to step out of the car when, like a scene from a movie, the big rig exploded.  The energy from the blast knocked me back and the heat emanating from the inferno was so intense that I felt as though I had just stepped up to warm my hands at the world's biggest campfire.

Taken from my iPhone

I was shaking as I looked at the truck because I knew the driver must have been killed when the diesel tanks ignited.  And then just as quickly as it occurred to me that he must have been consumed by the flames it struck me that had I not stayed in my car to call 911 or been on the phone with 911 for so long I would have been walking towards the truck just as it blew, or worse yet, looking in the cab of the truck for the driver at the moment the diesel tanks exploded in flames.

The windows of my car were splattered with oil after the accident

At one point there was a flash of purple light, which I assume was magnesium from the refrigeration unit of the truck igniting and then there was another huge explosion.  The pressure must have built up inside the cab of the truck because the driver's side door flew straight up in the air as if an invisibly Old Faithful were underneath it propelling thirty feet in the air.

By the time the passenger door blew off the police had arrived and told us to move away from the accident site.  I pulled my car up the shoulder a ways and then was told I could go.  The whole freeway was shut down.  I was diverted off of the freeway and found a gas station where I could clean off the windshield and then I made my way home.  However when I pulled in the driveway I realized that my pulse was 130 beat per minute.  There was so much adrenaline coursing through my veins that despite getting home at 1:30 am I couldn't drift off until I had taken a Tylenol PM, watched "The King's Speech" and had a glass of chocolate milk.

This morning when I woke up I found the following news story:

Fiery Big Rig Crash Creates Traffic Nightmare on 10 Freeway

To my tremendous relief I found out the drive of the truck survived.  Apparently he wriggled out of the cab of the truck with the help of a good Samaritan who had stopped on the east bound side of the 10 and they had both managed to get away from the rig before it blew.  

I know this is not the most eloquent of blog posts but I guess I am still sort of running on adrenaline.  But the moral of the story I suppose is that sometimes it's just not your time.  Apparently last night wasn't mine.  


Bill A said...

Wow.... No words for that. Just a thought from a song by Keb Mo, "It might be God trying to your attention."

Glad you're ok.

Ethan said...

You are lucky that you survived the terrific car flame explosions. I know that the explosion of the two cars had brought trauma, not only on your part, but to the rest of the people who also witnessed the accident. Fuel explosion could kill anyone, especially who were only meters away from the burning truck. I’m so glad that you called 911 before it could totally damage more cars and people out there.

Ethan Rehman