In one night, I went from the best to the worst that the automotive world has to offer.
The night started with XXX Burgers in Issaquah and chatting about million dollar cars that had been at Pebble Beach in California (arguably the nation’s most premier car show). We went over to a nearby museum and chatted car-talk some more, inches from five Lamborghini – a 350, a Miura, two others and a Murcielago body hanging on the wall – and a recent Shelby Cobra addition (most likely the real deal, given the company).
The prize that had just driven through the garage doors was a one of one Shelby GT-350 prototype worth untold amounts. Even a quarter of this collection would make most people drool or cry. Or both.
Several hours go by, the sun had set – it’d been up when we went in – but we were looking at photos featuring Carroll Shelby, vintage races at Laguna Seca and more. Having a grand old time.
Outside, the street lights came on and, inside, there was much merriment to be had in this crew of Shelby or car enthusiasts. As time always does, it flew by and suddenly it was time to head home.
We left motoring heaven and putted our way to and down Interstate 90, we rambled about the wonders we’d just seen. The car-porn we’d just come away from, recounting with wonder some of the details in the collection.
I was driving in the fast lane (inside left), a motorcycle with a rider and driver were in the HOV lane, just barely passing us.
That’s when I saw headlights in my driver’s mirror traveling way too fast. Unbelievably fast. My hand was already near the horn, as I moved my finger to beep, it was already unfolding.
Time slowed down. I could feel something bad was about to happen, the pit in my stomach an oubliette.
The car (I don’t remember what it looked like, honestly) tried to pass the motorcycle using the shoulder. The car was inches from the motorcycle, closer and closer, and then it was hitting it. The car tapped the motorcycle’s left side and then sped off.
To where, I don’t know except westbound on I-90, speeding off into the inky darkness. I had eyes only for the motorcycle. Screw that other guy, he’s a jackass who cared nothing for people’s lives. Me, those motorcycle occupants had my full attention.
My foot went to the brake and I readied my hands on the wheel, ready to move any direction needed, as the back tires of the motorcycle wobbled. I knew it was going down.
It didn’t just go down, it flew into pieces, sending debris all over the road. The driver landed the bike on the right side, tires sliding into the guardrail. The windscreen on the bike was torn off and the front end was disintegrated – I know, but how I’ll get to in a moment.
As soon as I saw the wobble, I knew I’d be stopping to help. Brakes were applied with prejudice and I started to follow the debris-field towards the shoulder of I-90, somewhere west of XXX burgers, but not yet to Bellevue.
Rob was yelling at me, “Stop, stop stop,” but I was already stopping. I was already stopping. I couldn’t get stopped quick enough. I turned on the flashers, was reaching for the phone as Rob was yelling to call 911, already heading towards the moaning figures in the roadway.
Operator was on the phone, but -Shit- I couldn’t even get the right numbers out of my head. “I-5.” No that’s not right. “No, 405.” No, that’s not right either.
I’m sure I sounded like a moron to the operator, who did her best to get me to be coherent. Thanks, unknown operator lady, for helping me be coherent. “Sorry. I-90, west of the exit to XXX burgers.” Shock does stupid, stupid things.
Rob was out checking on the female and told her to lie still and not move, help was on the way. He went to the other figure, who was rolling around like a madman, and did the same. Vehicles still did 70 mph past while others were stopping in front of us, occupants running to help.
Just passersby who stopped, too. Many surrounded the two victims, one came towards me as I was transferred to State Patrol. As he came to a stop near me,a truck sped past in the HOV lane, it’s mirrors inches from his back. I grabbed him and stepped in a few feet into the shoulder as another car rushed past.
I handed him my phone so I could move the car the rest of the way out of the road – not wanting to make a bad incident worse with a Miata hull being tossed into good Samaritans. When I got out of the car, the guy was talking to State Patrol, so I left him to it. It was probably better that my brain wasn’t part of the problem, anyways.
I checked in on the groups helping the fallen and knew I’d be in the way.
Just like the motorcycle chassis still lying half-way in the road. I grabbed one of the other people standing, (nope, I didn’t get his name… it wasn’t a need to know item) around and asked him to help me move it out of the way.
(The story continues below the photo.)
“Watch out, when motorcycles crash they get sharp,” he warned.
“Thanks,” I replied.
I grabbed the rim of what used to be the front end. He couldn’t find a grip but that didn’t matter, I was dragging it off the road. While the tire was there, nothing else of the bike was left. What was left probably weighed 15 pounds.
The danger averted, I returned to the people at hand. The male was thrashing around, “let me sit up.” Sorry dude, that’s not the greatest thing for you to do right now, you gotta lay still and just relax.
“Let me in, I’m an off duty police office,” someone said as they ran up. “Keep him still. Stay still man.”
I left that group and went to the other. The female was in a lot of pain, tears staining her cheeks behind the helmet – thank god they were both wearing helmets (and double layers of leathers, I found out later).
“Owe, it hurts, oh, god,” she cried in pain. “What happened.”
I had a purpose. We were the only car within viewing distance of what happened. As another lady explained what she thought happened, I cut her off.
“I saw what happened,” I said. “You were clipped by a car trying to pass you in the shoulder. Your bike went down, but help is on the way and you’re going to be ok.”
“What? It hurts,” she replied.
“I know,” I said. “I know it hurts, I was hit by a van as a pedestrian a year ago. I know it hurts now, but you’re going to be ok.”
She looked in my eyes. The other lady told me her name: Kristine.
“You’re going to be ok, Kristine,” I said.
The off-duty cop came around and I stepped back, giving them room. Sitting on the guard rail and waited with nothing to do. I heard sirens in the distance and knew help was on the way.
“I see lights, so help is almost here,” I told them.
I felt useless. It seemed to take forever for the emergency vehicles to get there from the time I first saw the lights to the time they stopped next to the Miata, blocking traffic from the HOV lane and finally making it safe for the dozen people helping out at the scene.
Average Joes that just stopped. Average Joes stepping back as the professionals in the firetruck took over. I never got their names, the dozen or so of them who did the human thing. They will be the unnamed heroes.
As soon as the medics and firemen took over the victims, the state patrol started looking for the witnesses. I stood up immediately.
“I saw the whole thing, we were the first on scene,” I said. After which I began recounting the same information I’ve given you here.
I still don’t remember the color of the car, but so many others did that the lack of my witness account of the vehicle didn’t matter. My eyes had been on the two people in this story who mattered most. The two people heading off to Harborview trauma center at high speeds.
I gave the police my statement, looked around for Kristine’s backpack with her phone in it (apparently it had been accident shock, there was no backpack), and then settled to sitting on the guardrail just feet from the skid mark where the bike chassis tore through concrete and the small patch of earth that was barren.
I let the State Patrol guy with the crime-scene camera know that we had moved the bike chassis. He thanked me, telling me we’d done the right thing. He appreciated our efforts.
It made me feel slightly better in this time of despair for the two on the motorcycle: State Patrol appreciated the efforts of the people who stopped to help.
All the other cars had left, by the time we were done. One witness remained, finishing their statement. There were patrol and a few firetrucks, ensuring the next few lanes were free for us to merge into slow-moving traffic.
I had Rob drive home. My nerves were shot and, now that the commotion was done, the cars around me gave me the heeby-jeebies. I kept replaying the wobble in my head and decided to put my nose in my cell phone the entire way home.
I spoke to a friend who had been at the museum with us, viewing photos of his from Pebble Beach and the vintage races at Laguna Seca. It helped me get through the drive home and get to the safe place. After sitting on the porch and being held by my husband, I called Harborview ER to get a status update.
It was a long hold, then a hangup (hey, they’re busy). I called again and finally got to a person.
I told them who I was, “We were the first ones on the scene of a motorcycle crash and I’m trying to get their status.” He spoke with me and asked what happened. I recounted in brief and told him their names. Lucas and Christine.
“They’re in stable-condition,” he said as I let out a breath I’d, apparently, been holding.
“Can I leave my contact information for them? If they ever want to know what happened, why they went down,” I asked.
He took my name and phone number.
“Thank you,” I said. And hung up the phone.
“They’re stable,” I told Rob. “They’re stable.”
Currently, Lucas and Kristine cannot work. They have a 6-year-old daughter and a house payment they could use some help with. Friends of theirs have started a GoFundMe to help pay for non-covered hospital charges and normal bills while they recover. To help out, please visit http://www.gofundme.com/ve3b592c.
Part two will publish on Thursday, Sept. 10.