Yesterday we drove from MA to PA for our usual holidays-with-my-parents thing. It's just us as my sister-in-law is recovering from (elective) foot surgery and can't do car rides just yet. Brother and I aren't close but I still miss seeing him this time of year.
ANYWAY, we took a different route down than usual, as Google directed us around Mass Pike suckage. We were on 495 heading south when a constellation of brake lights emerged ahead of us. We started left to go around the now-stopped vehicles only to realize that we were fresh upon an accident scene. We didn't witness it, nor were we first there, but we seemed to be the two with the most sense. One witness was fluttering about doing nothing and another person had stopped their car IN THE HIGHWAY to call 911. Pygment and I pulled off the road well ahead and ran back.
Two people in a relatively late-model minivan had impacted the back of a semi at highway speeds. Father was driving, daughter in the front passenger seat. The truck was not scratched, as you'd imagine, but the front end of the minivan was a complete shambles, glass broken. All the airbags had deployed - Pygment later noted that the powder dust from the bags was still in the air as we ran up.
She took the driver side, where a panicked gentleman with quite likely a broken arm was trying to get out of the vehicle. And bystanders were trying to "help" him with this. Geezus keerist. Pygment talked them out of that, but the gentleman was feeling trapped (he was) and wanted the belt off, so that was cut and he stayed put.
Meanwhile, I talked to the passenger, a young woman who was not majorly injured but whose legs were pinned by the crushed front of the car and who was clearly in shock and fading in and out of consciousness. No obvious blood, I checked pupils (normal, equal-sized, and tracked correctly in all three dimensions) and grip (shaky but not trembling). The poor woman wanted nothing more than to be out of the wreck with which I sympathized but no way was she getting out until the pros came and pried the metal off her.
So I stood next to what was left of her door, and we gripped each other's forearms, and we talked. Each time she started to slip into unconsciousness I asked more questions, urged her to stay with me. I learned where she'd gone to school, where she worked, where they were headed, what she was going to buy, what games she liked to play, which of the Final Fantasy series was her favorite, and probably more I'm forgetting. Afterward I felt like it had been five minutes, but Pygment assures me it was nearly 20 minutes before the pros arrived - first a cop, then a fire rescue crew with jaws. As I got clearance from the policeman to leave and we were walking back to our car I heard the ambulance pull up.
I wish there was more I could have done, but her injuries were not life-threatening and not in places any amateur should be going. Realistically, I probably did the most good by having Bystander 2 move his car onto the shoulder so the policeman had a clear space to pull up and stop.
If these two are OK - and I have every reason to think they will be - it will be due to modern safety features compensating for the driver's lack of attention. Both the injured were properly belted; the airbags appear to have done their job. And the car front crumpled in just the right way. Nobody wants to have their legs pinned by crushed metal, but it beats all hell out of having a quarter-ton of aluminum and iron thrown into your chest at high speed.
Thank G-d for those things, and may you all be safe and well in your travels.