When they stay your life flashes before your eyes, I know exactly what they mean. Time seemed to stand still as I recall several things happening at once.
For video clips post accident HWY 63 Accident: Moose VS Red Arrow
I had two seats to myself. I was originally sitting in 1a in the single aisle but as it was not a full charter I slid over to 1B and 1C. Directly behind the driver.
Like I said several things happened simultaneously and in slow motion.
I started to slide and I heard the driver screaming. I hit the divider between the driver and myself.
I heard glass shatter.
The driver was yelling “omg, ow, it hurts! IT HURTS!” Images flashed before me.
I’ve been taking the Red Arrow for nearly 2 decades now. They have amazing customer service, spacious seat, refreshments and on board entertainment and wifi. They are always on time and courteous. I love them. 3 years ago when I began commuting to and from Fort Mcmurray to Edmonton/ Calgary, I used to ride the charter bus to see my family as I did not have a vehicle due to being a recent Dental Hygiene graduate.
Shortly after, I acquired a vehicle I decided to take the bus to edmonton to see my family as it was deemed safer than driving. There are usually only 2-3 scheduled buses that leave Fort Mcmurray daily. And I always take the same one. For some reason – last minute I decided not to go. And that was the same charter that rolled over. Never before has anything like that happened with Red Arrow in all my years and this was a horrific accident with several people injured. I was NOT on that bus that day by some freak luck, but it still often crosses my mind that I almost was.
Images of the RedWater Bus Crash flashed before me as I slammed into the divider between the driver and myself. I remember reading about severed limbs and blood smeared on the road.
All I could think about was the worse possible thing that could be happening to the driver. Impalement? Amputation? What about the other passengers?
Why such morbid thoughts one might ask? About 10 years ago I trained to be an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and I’ve been lifeguarding for over 15 years and even instructed rescue skills. Most of my life, since I was a teenager I’ve been trained and conditioned to respond and go over scenarios in my mind.
When the bus finally skidded to a stop. My blood was pumping. The driver was screaming in pain and confusion.
There was small bits of glass in my hair and embedded in my hands.
Instinct and training kicked in and I began a scene survey. I could tell it was only the front of the bus that was affected. I moved down towards the driver to see if he was alright and began asking him questions to see if he suffered an head injury.
I instructed a man behind me to call 911, it seemed as though he was already doing it. Next I found the first aid kit and began assessing him for injuries and his vitals and checking for secondary injuries, once I realized his was fully comprehensive.
As I worked my way down I found that his chief complaint was his right knee and it looked as though he suffered a contusion and later on it evidently swelled quite aggressively and upon palpation may have indicated a possible fracture. The poor man was shaking but held his composure very admirably as the left side windshield was completely smashed through and the front left windshield shattered on the lower half and extruding to the point that he had articles of clothing outside the bus.
There were several broke fragments of dashboard and the electrical was sparking on his left when he tried to engage his seat to give him room to get out. We decided against it and he stayed in his position until EMS arrived.
The Fort Mcmurray Police arrived on scene first with the Fire Department only a flash of light away. The crew was efficient and beyond professional. My friend Dave on the Fire department was even on the scene. One the EMS personnel made the roads safe, they evacuated the driver to the ambulance.
He told me “I’m supposed to retire next year.” I said, “I think you should retire this year!”
The rest of the passengers waited for maybe another 30minutes before the replacement bus arrived and in the meantime, a couple of hunters pulled over and began dressing the dead moose for the free meat.
I held the light for them in exchange for a steak but as we cut into the moose it seemed the internal organs had been completely pulverized. By the time the rib cage was finally exposed my friend and ride (another wonderful member of the Local Fire department) arrived to pick me up. Not only did he arrive in a timely manner but he brought refreshments and onion rings.
I love my community. Wood Buffalo region is amazing. The people are amazing and I am glad I am alive.
It’s late now.
Cheers to the experiences in life that bring us closer to appreciating the fragility of it.