The Chevy Camaro was flipped over and laying on its roof in the middle of a two lane, farm to market road. Gasoline was seeping out of the cracked gas tank onto the hot black top of the Texas road. I was the first to arrive at the scene, I ran up and crouched down to get an idea of how many occupants there were and what kind of injuries needed attention. The thought of the car exploding was on my mind when I got my first look at Caroline.
There hanging upside down was the sole occupant of the car. An 18 year old girl with beautiful, long, blonde hair. I mention the hair because it was pinning the girl to the roof as she hung upside down. The sun-roof was open and when the car flipped, her long hair flowed out the opening and was now under the roof of the car, tightly pinning her head. Her seat belt had saved her life, without the belt her head would have gone out the opening.
Hey, what’s your name? My name is Julya. Caroline? Okay Caroline, I know you are just hanging around, but we really need to get you out of this car. Do you have any injuries? Do you feel any pain? Can you feel your arms and legs? I went through the questions that needed to be asked very quickly as I looked her over myself. I was now lying on the inside of the roof with my head right beside Caroline’s. I could hear the paramedics talking to the dispatcher. They had been on another call and were clearing the hospital, their ETA at the accident site was 7-8 minutes.
I began to talk to Caroline as I tried to yank the blonde tresses out from between the roof of the car and the black top of the road underneath. Caroline’s hair was probably down to her waist, but it was pinned at about collar length. She told me she had just graduated high school and had been shopping for dorm room stuff for the fall semester at college. An old man in a truck had pulled out in front of her, she had swerved the Camaro to the gravel shoulder and then over-corrected causing the car to flip and slide about 50 feet down the road on its roof.
I could smell smoke from the engine and the gas was trickling….two men had stopped to help and were yelling at us to get the hell out of the Camaro. I told Caroline that the ambulance was about 7 minutes away, but I really thought we should leave the car in about 1 minute!
I was now really jerking at her hair, pulling out handfuls…I asked if I could use my knife. Caroline, the panic building as the smoke got heavier around us screamed, “do it!!”
I always carried a very sharp knife on my duty belt. I was told by a veteran cop to do so in case I ever had to cut a seat belt and help someone get out of a car, just like the instant I was finding myself. Only the seat belt unbuckled quite easily…I was now using the knife to cut Caroline’s hair. I cut as quickly as I could and we both slithered out the passenger side of the car. We trotted to the shoulder with the men and watched as the smoke got increasingly heavier and blacker.
Another officer arrived on the scene and assisted me in traffic control. I would like to make this story more interesting by saying just as we cleared the car it EXPLODED in a fiery red ball of flames!! But alas, that would not be the truth. The smoke bellowed, but no flames….the fire department arrived with the paramedics at their predicted time. The car was sprayed to prevent an explosion as I began to write the accident report.
Caroline was checked by the paramedics, but refused transport to the hospital. It seems that her only injury was an assault on her sense of style. She thanked me repeatedly for my help, we really did think the car would blow. One of the citizens that had stopped to help told me I was a hero, then started to chuckle and walked off.
The bottom line is, whether we waited for the paramedics or not, the hair was going to have to be cut. Caroline’s head was wedged tight against the sun-roof and there was no other way to free her without risking injury. Caroline was a cute girl and I saw her around town after that fateful day. She made the short cut work for her, with the help of her stylist they went for a Meg Ryan, You’ve Got Mail, kind of look. I told Caroline no referrals please, even if people flip for it.
Julya, you are such a clear thinker (I have recent experience with this).
Caroline is lucky to have walked away and into college. The daily courage of our police and the kindness of strangers so often goes unremarked.
Another great ‘day in the life’ from the Dyke in the Heart of Texas!
Clear thinker, yes. Wonderful story-teller! Thank you for such an exciting & vivid story.
Oh my goodness, that would have scared the pee out of me, but , I would like to think that I would have done something for the girl myself . Good story.
That was a textbook example of the trained LEO’s skill at work. Thank you.
It sometimes happens citizens do the right thing; I remember someone who tried to go around the barrier and whose car got dragged by a commuter rail train some distance. Several drivers immediately ran to the car, flames were coming from under the hood and gas was trickling from the tank… . I got there with my extinguisher and kept the fire down until they got him free, then WHOOMP!
Likely, he would not have survived without those bystanders. and the fire was some justification for risking pulling him out the window; one can’t tell if there are spinal injuries… FD and PD got there to find the car fully involved. Never did find out final disposition,but he was at least breathing, anyway.
So, you do what you have to. And hair grows back!