The Day I almost Died

The Day I almost Died

The Need

The Day I almost Died, was a day I’ll never forget. That’s why I am very passionate about April 28 because of what almost happened to me. As a safety professional I have a very unique understanding of why we need to do more.  Always sourcing better ways to convey the message. So workers understand what the outcomes could be if they fail to realize the hazards before they start any task.

My Youth

There was in my life I use to drive a tow truck. Back in the mid-80s.  Things were very different back then. We never heard about Risk Tolerance or Hazard Assessments. We had the contract for the city so we handled all the accidents. As a young man I saw things on scene that nobody should ever see. We would pull cars and trucks out of ditches and ravines full of waste run off from the farms.  Crime scene tows with bodies still inside, and vehicles mangled beyond recognition. The Fraser River took a lot of stolen cars and trucks. This resulted in over stressed recovery chains which could have snapped any time. Guys got hurt because some did. Once you hear that sound pasting your head, it’s never forgotten. Medal flying like a bullet inches from your face. We couldn’t get hurt. We didn’t think about it.

To the Yard 

On a Sunday morning my pager went off.  I phoned dispatch and I was directed to go to the storage yard and grab a vehicle to tow back to an owner. It was nice day, I remember that. My propane was low so I fuel up both side mounted tank prior to the job. I proceeded south down River Rd. The Alex Fraser Bridge in Delta British Columbia behind me, I noticed the time was 8:30 am. My truck, a 1986 Chevy 1 ton with a Holmes 480 split boom was looking good. With a fresh wash and detail it shined. Damn I loved that truck.

Life Altering Event

My turn was coming up so I started gearing down. With a line of cars behind me, the feeling was like the leader of the pack. Music was cranked, as I was sitting back in my set, smoking a cigarette. I was Stylin and Profilin.  There’s my turn, hit the blinkers, no cars oncoming  so why slow down.  I just took the turn and that’s when it happened. Before I knew it I was rolling in a circle, my backend was up and over the top, and then I say the road coming right at my face. But it wasn’t over, another twisting roll corner over corner and my cab was getting crushed. After finally came to a stop, I was upside down. Hanging from my seat belt, fading in and out. I’m not ashamed  in telling you, but after a few seconds I saw some light and a tunnel. Thinking that was it. I’m going home.

The Sounds of Silence 

The Day I almost Died I was fading in and out. The sounds of silence was deafening. Then I could hear the screams of my rescue coming. Sirens, I can hear sirens. I’m alive. I’m sure scared though. The guys I see all the time while cleaning up accidents are coming for me this time. I think every fireman and cop working that morning raced down to Tilbury Industry Park. One of the tow guy was in a lot of trouble. Finally the remainder of the front windshield was being ripped out by a few set of hands. Next a fireman climbed in and collard me up before I was to be extracted and boarded. I can’t even feel my body. They took me away but at least I recognized the medic sitting beside me from other MVAs I’ve been on. “Relax Mike” I could hear him say “I’m going to take some vitals”

Explanation  

When I was in the hospital it was explained to me what happened. During my left hand turn, a van was racing up the wrong side of the road in the oncoming lane. He was too impatient and was trying to pass the row of over 10 cars behind me. They estimated his speed at over 160 km/h. When he hit me he missed the fully charged propane by 6 inches. T-boning my driver side read corner and due to my turn, it sent me into a corner to corner cartwheel twice. His van bounced off me so hard that it flew into the Fraser River. Far enough that all of the van submerged except a foot of roof was above the waterline. They had to bring in a boat to rescue him and yes wouldn’t you know it, he was fine. Sitting on the roof of that van watching as they extracted. It turns out he had a blood alcohol level of 1.2 on a Sunday morning.

The Aftermath

After a few hours in the hospital I regained my body back, the feeling had returned and I was able to walk. After they dressed the cuts and collard my neck with a disposable, I went down to the tow yard. I had to see my truck from The Day I almost Died. I had to see how close I came to dying that day. My poor truck was twisted so bad that the boom was hanging in pieces. The back deck assembly was facing the passenger side. The cab was crushed down a over a foot and the doors when almost ripped off. I do consider myself so very luck though. It could have been so much worse.

What Could Have Happened

Two weeks prior I purchased something. I spent a lot of money for this. I took it everywhere I went for work. They sure came in handy a number of times.  It use to site on my passenger bucket seat. All new, red and shining. What I usually carried with me was a top chest of a Snap On Tool Box. Most important, it was fully loaded. Snap-On sockets from 1/4 to 3/4 drives, metric and imperial. Shallow and deep sockets, extensions, and other attachments. Also loaded with wrenches and other tools.  A medal box  that weighed well over 150 lbs. How stupid was that. There was no way the seat belt could ever hold it in place. A sharp cornered box full of shrap medal. My body could have been crushed. 

Hazard Assessment 

A few years ago I did a Hazard Assessment on that morning.  When completed, I had over 15 pages of data on this event. Things we do when we are young, ill-informed, with a total lack of supervision. My Risk Tolerance was so high as a kid. The Hierarchy Hazard Triangle was non-existent. Surprised I am that I’m still alive. However at the end of that day, I wouldn’t change a thing because it has given me a very unique look at safety in the workplace. I have seen the result through the eyes that almost died.

 

The Day I Almost Died. To chest of a mechanics  tool box fully loaded

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Posted in Construction Safety.

mikew@freebirdsafetyservices.ca

View posts by mikew@freebirdsafetyservices.ca

With several years in Construction, a vast amount in Masonry, when I turned 40 it was time for a change. Occupational Health and Safety was a calling I wish I discovered when I was younger. With over 30 years experience now in the trades, I have a knowledge base I wish to pass on.

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