More dangerous than drunk drivers (or at least more numerous)

It had been a hard year for my VFD. We’d had at least 4 fatal crashes and a number more where we’d had to use the Jaws of Life. We hadn’t had any big fires ourselves, but all of our neighboring cities had, and we’d been right in the middle of every one.

I was headed home from a 24 hour shift at my paramedic job, and running a bit late, when the tones went off for a possible rollover crash. The location was the scene of a particularly messy recent fatal crash. It was also directly on my way to the firehouse.

As I approached the scene, traffic started to back up. That was a bad sign, but the worse sign was that no traffic was coming the other way. I flipped on my red LEDs, honked my horn, and gingerly snuck around the blind curve on the wrong side of the road.

The vehicle was an old Saturn, on its roof across the road and missing its right front wheel. One of our police officers was on his knees talking to the driver, who was trapped in the front seat. There was no patrol unit in sight. I parked my pickup in the travel lanes to protect us, and went to talk to the officer.

“Phil, what do we have?” I asked.
“She’s OK, but she’s trapped in her seat belt.”
“OK. Do you have a radio?”
“Nope, I was on my way to a detail job,” he replied.

Me neither. It seems like that portable radio is never around when I need it. I used my cell instead, to call our dispatch center and advise them that we would need the Jaws when the engine arrived.

I crawled into the car through the missing rear window. If you turned my car upside down and shook it, all kinds of strange stuff would fall out. This woman was incredibly neat; all I found was a purse, a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and her cell phone. As Phil had said, she seemed OK but was hanging upside down in her seatbelt. I reassured her that help was right around the corner, and then I crawled back out to meet the now-arriving engine.

I explained the situation to the Chief and the day crew on the engine. They looked surprised to see me in full uniform for my other job. The next thing I knew, I was back in the car with Mrs. Smith, and the crew was attacking the car with the hydraulic rescue tool.

In the middle of the large racket, Mrs. Smith (still hanging upside down) handed me her open cell phone. “Can you talk to my sister?” What?! No. I’m kind of busy here. . .

“Just tell her you’re fine, the car’s not, and you’ll be at Local Community Hospital,” I said.

We extricated her without incident, and I handed her over to the local paramedics. They took her to the hospital. Care to guess why she crashed on a smooth road on a nice morning? Her cell phone rang, of course.

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