By Cheryl Carlson
Jordan and Bailey
On a bitterly cold morning in January 2013, I was on my way to
work deep in my own thoughts about what the day would have in store for me.
Little did I know that tragedy had already struck our family. My cell phone
rang and my grandson, Wyatt, was calling to tell me that his sisters had just
had a bad accident on their way to school. He was panicked and crying and I
could barely understand what he was telling me. He said, “Grandma it’s bad,
I drove directly to the accident site where other family members, police, ambulance and EMS had already arrived. As I approached the mangled remains of their Jeep Liberty I experienced the most intense fear I had ever known. I saw our two sons and Wyatt all standing together and crying. Our Sheriff, Greg Riat, came over to me and gave me a big hug and encouraged me not to worry, that they would get the girls out. At that point I really didn’t even know if they were alive.
They had been wearing their seat belts but they didn’t end up in them. The force of the accident must have pulled them up and out of their seats because their seat covers had also been pulled off. But hopefully that’s what kept them in the vehicle. They had both been thrown into the back storage area of the Jeep and Jordan (age 15) was wedged into that small area on top of her sister, Bailey (age 9). There was no movement as the EMS personnel and other emergency workers frantically worked to free them. The “Jaws of Life” finally succeeded in getting the roof cut through enough to get Jordan out. She wasn’t fully conscious but thankfully was alive and in a great deal of pain.
Bailey in a body shell brace
The force of the accident had pulled both of her boots from her feet. One foot was, at some point, outside the vehicle as it rolled end over end two or three times. Due to severe head trauma, Life Star was called to transport her to Stormont Vail. I can still hear that helicopter as it landed in the field near the accident and then the complete feeling of helplessness and fear as it left…and the tears I have in my eyes now as I relive that horrible day.
As the helicopter lifted off, I called Richard at the Capitol to tell him of the accident and to have him go directly to the hospital to meet the helicopter. Then our attention was focused back on Bailey who was by now, moaning and crying and trying to move. Her pain was so intense that all she could do was scream. It was freezing cold, about 9 degrees, and her new coat was cut off of her to help get her free. We had just given that coat to her for Christmas and she was not happy. Finally, after almost an hour she was placed on a board and I’ll never forget what she said. A female EMS member asked her about her pain and wanted to know if her pelvis hurt. She replied, “I don’t know what a pelvis is!” That was the only bright spot up to that moment.
She was transported to Stormont Vail by ambulance. She and her sister were in the Trauma Center for about 36 hours and then were well enough to be in the PICU. Jordan had to have surgery to repair a toe that was mangled and after about six days in the hospital was allowed to come home. Bailey had compression fractures of every bone in her back and was in excruciating pain for days. She was fitted with a neck brace and a body “shell” brace that she had to wear for about 6 weeks. After being released from the hospital she had to go to the Madonna Center in Lincoln for a short while and came home about three weeks later.
The accident happened on a gravel road when Jordan got too close to a ridge of frozen rock. It threw her across the road at which time she over compensated and shot back across. Her front axle came off. Then she hit a wall of the ditch which threw them end over end into the pasture. She, like most farm kids, learn to drive at an early age. The accident was probably due to a lack of experience of driving in general, and driving on gravel which is a totally different ball game.
Now both girls are doing just fine. Jordan has graduated from high school and is beginning studies in nursing. Bailey is now an active 8th grader who is a cheerleader. She has taken dance since the accident, loves to swim and loves to ride her horse, Renegade. We are so blessed to have them in our lives and cherish every hug we share.
Cheryl Carlson is the wife of KDOT Interim Secretary Richard Carlson
By John Milburn
There’s an old saying I’ve heard from veterans describing war or vacationers coming back from an exotic locale: you wouldn’t understand until you’ve been there yourself.
In a way, I have been when it comes to traffic crashes. Oh, I’ve had a few fender-benders, but nothing like what I witnessed in my previous life as a reporter in small communities in Kansas. Those opportunities afforded me access to some of the most horrific and tragic crashes one can imagine.
One of the first was in the summer of 1986 while working on my last night of an internship in Pittsburg. Regular staff members were taking their vacations so I filled in while they were gone. My summer ended on the cops and court beat. The court side was easy as there were few happenings worth reporting during that stretch. The police beat was a bit different and quite enlightening to what reporters and emergency responders face on any given call.
This particular evening a call came in over the scanner of a two-car accident near the airport northwest of town. Our photographer and I grabbed gear and headed out to what we suspected was a bad scene. And it was.
Two teens had “borrowed” mom’s car and were out driving country roads at a high rate of speed when they blew through an intersection and collided broadside with a pick-up truck. The truck was knocked into a field and heavily damaged. We could see the EMS crews working to save the young driver. And just like in the movies, sparks and smoke were coming from the vehicle, giving a sense of urgency.
Where was the other vehicle? What was left of the small car was a crumpled heap near the fence row. The two young boys were thrown from the car and lie dead in the tall weeds in the ditch. I didn’t know them, but knew they weren’t much younger than me. In an instant, what seemed like a fun summer night driving around town turned deadly.
Those images stuck with me through college and my first job in Arkansas City where I was a reporter and editor. A similar call came in the newsroom one afternoon about the time school was letting out. A one-car accident was reported in the northwest part of the county.
We pulled to the scene and EMS and fire crews were working the accident. A young man had lost control of his car and crashed into a fence row. He was killed instantly.
I share these stories as a former reporter and as a current parent. They are images that are forever etched in my memories. They were so-called war stories that reporters share when discussing what they’ve done over the years. But as a parent now of two teens that are learning to drive, they serve as teaching moments that cause me to tense up each time they are behind the wheel.
Not every trip out of the driveway will end in tragedy, but I want my children—everyone’s children— to know the risks. It’s dangerous enough under normal circumstances for these young drivers to navigate town. Adding too much speed, hazardous weather or all of the distractions of modern technology and the risks multiply.
I don’t want some young reporter to ever have to walk up to a crash and see another child injured or killed. While they may be good teaching moments or stories to share back at the newsroom, they are tragedies that can’t be reversed.
John Milburn is the Director of Legislative and Public Affairs for the Kansas Department of Administration
By Keith Lindemann
Can you remember the last time you had the experience of standing on the highway while passing vehicles fly by? Chances are, you were pretty nervous while you were changing that flat tire or adding that gallon or two of gas. The sound of tires on the pavement just inches away and the rush of air created by the passing vehicles are warning signs of how dangerous it is out there. These warning signs should motivate you to finish the job before the unthinkable happens. The unthinkable is - being struck and killed by a passing motorist.
I experience these feelings most every shift while working the streets, roads and highways as Captain on Rescue-1. Rescue-1 responds with law enforcement and EMS to all injury accidents in Salina, and in Saline County. Once on the scene of an accident, my responsibilities include traffic control and performing extrication techniques to free trapped occupants. Believe me - traffic control is often times more challenging than the extrications themselves. Directing all oncoming traffic safely around the emergency scene can be challenging, mainly because of inattentive drivers.
Did you know that if changing your flat tire takes 30 minutes, up to 300 vehicles might pass by during that time? How many of those 300 drivers are drunk, drugged, drowsy, texting or distracted by something else in their vehicles? These human factors, along with ice, rain, snow, curves and hills, are the leading causes of secondary collisions.
Despite attending and instructing classes in Traffic Incident Management and setting up the perfect traffic control zone, I have been conditioned to never really be comfortable while working in traffic. Most responders don’t trust the traffic because of close calls they have experienced at one time or another during their careers. On average, 12 law enforcement officers, 5 firefighters, and 60 tow operators are killed each year due to distracted drivers crashing into emergency scenes.
|Lindemann during rope rescue training|
Keith Lindemann is the Fire/Rescue Captain at the Salina Fire Department
By Cpl. Jordan Couturier
Crashes are preventable incidents. Sure, there are examples of cataclysmic events or sudden mechanical failure. But, the vast majority of crashes occur because a person is failing to complete a task. No one intends to be involved in a crash. They might feel they are the safest driver on the roadway.
But what about the other driver thinking they can make up time while running a little late for a meeting? Or the driver following closer than usual behind a vehicle moving at a seemingly snail like pace? And of course, there is the driver who quickly glances now and then at their phone just to make sure nothing else is happening in the world? But, they aren’t you right? You’re the safest driver on the street.
So what is the problem then? What is the predictable denominator? Them? The other drivers? Guess again. It is you. It is us. Frankly, we humans are selfish. We are more concerned about our own little driving world that we willingly cut corners and push the envelope while setting aside the common sense rules of the road. What do you think would happen if we all cared a lot less about ourselves and cared a little more about the motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians sharing our traffic ways? It definitely would not be a perfect world, but I would bet each one of us would be a lot safer on the roadways.
So, how did I get to this conclusion? Possibly it was the teenage boy thrown over 60 feet from his bicycle after being struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross a four-lane city street. Maybe it was the drunk parents colliding with trees and vehicles with their kids seated in the back. Perhaps it was the pregnant mother walking the shorter route across the street and meeting the front bumper of a passing motorist. Or maybe it has been the hundreds of other crashes I have responded to where someone needed to get somewhere fast and in a hurry, distracted themselves with anything other than driving their several thousand pound vehicle, and ignored the basic rules of driving.
What do they all have in common? You. You are the drivers, the pedestrians, and the cyclists. It begins and ends with you. No more excuses. Choose to be responsible for your own safety and those around you. Make the conscious decision to care more about the people affected by your traffic safety practices. Don’t be selfish. Be selfless.
Cpl. Jordan Couturier is with the City of Leawood Police Department