October 4, 2011
Jim and I left friends in Sixes, Oregon and hopped back onto 101. The winding, twisting highway I remembered from years past has been straightened and widened. The old road was dangerous, narrow, and complicated by hills, blind bends and heavily laden logging trucks with few pullouts. The new road is an officially designated scenic highway. In some places it diverts you, if you choose to go, to the old road near specific scenic spots. The new road has a bike lane with signs to watch for bicyclers. The weather was gray but the day was black as two girls riding bikes were hit by a car seconds before we came on the scene. It is elk area and I thought I saw an elk carcass on the road.
People were bailing out of their vehicles to see what they could do to help. One girl was visible on the road where she flew on impact I’m guessing 30 feet to the left. The guy from the motor home in front of us, found the second girl over the embankment in the tall grass. The girls both appeared to be dead, both unmoving not visibly breathing.
One woman in pink claimed to know first aid. She found a pulse and held her jaw up to make sure her breathing passages would remain straight, she explained. The girls jaw was white, her teeth clenched tight. I dug through the girls pack looking for blankets since they both carried large back packs. What little I remembered of my own first aid was not to move anyone and to cover the person to help prevent shock. I couldn’t find a blanket in their packs, but put a set of heavy sweats on the girls bare skin. Another guy, I think from the car that hit her brought a blanket for each girl. Jim was looking to find a mile marker to identify our position.
This man found a pulse on this girl who was curled into a fetal position and also unconscious. She had a serious gash on her leg. We had immediately checked to see if emergency services were contacted and the truck driver traveling north and the motor home in front of us had both called and given positions, though no mile markers were in sight. The girl in the street finally responded, opened her eyes in a blank unseeing stare. The woman in pink kept asking her if she was all right, could she hear. After what seemed like many minutes, she began taking visible deep breaths and moaning. I couldn’t control my emotions and began to cry.
This bike was crushed. You can see the wheel marks and gravel where the driver braked. It is hard to tell how and why he hit them. Both girls were close together as there were two deep indentations in the safety glass were the two girls hit the windshield at the same time, one on the driver’s side, one on the passenger side. This bike belonged to the girl in the grass.
The amount of damage done to these bikes reminded me that my youngest daughter has ridden her bike during commute hours from Davis to Sacramento literally putting over a thousand miles on her bike and I shuddered and couldn’t keep from shaking and lapsing into tears after we got into the motor home to leave. I couldn’t get over the devastation, how the impact removed one shoe from each girl’s feet; the blank stare from this girl’s beautiful blue eyes, the swelling on her leg pushing one leg higher off the ground than the other as we watched. It was horrific and left me dazed and weak. The girl over the edge never regained consciousness while we were there.
It seemed way too long before emergency services arrived. People on the road took charge and helped direct traffic around to get the first responders through to the girls. So brutal. As Jim and I talked about it, we realized that on the highways in every country of the world, a similar scene takes place many times a day. It just seems so incomprehensible. We felt such deep sadness for these young girls, the drivers too, who will live with this accident the rest of their lives. All of their families are affected. The words, please drive safely seem so inadequate to the consequences.