" Maura. There was a pile-up."
"I know, Kent. It's on every television channel."
" It's a mess. It's really bad."
"Are you there?"
" Yeah. I'm here. I'm not inside the zone yet. Um. I can see what's happening though. They sent me to help determine the cause."
"It looks like the truck lost control."
There is a pause, "Maybe. I don't know yet. They're still looking for signs of life. So far they are only pulling out bodies."
" Not yet. It's...um...really bad."
"Oh. There are a lot of cars pilled up in there."
" Yeah at least ten. Listen...Maura. You need to brace yourself."
" Are you sitting down?"
"What is it Kent?" Maura taps her foot.
"Fine I'm sitting...what is it?"
" Jane's car...it's here...crashed."
"Jane's car? You're breaking up. Did you say Jane's car is there?"
" Yeah, It's Jane's car. Are you...are you ok?"
"Jane's upstate for the police conference. She isn't due back till Saturday."
" It's her car Maura. It's her number plate."
"But it's Wednesday."
" It's her car. I'm sorry Maura."
"She was in the crash?" Maura sits down on the closest seat and clenches her shirt front beside her heart.
" Her car is. I haven't seen her. Yet."
"No." Maura takes a few deep breaths to prevent herself from screaming, "It can't be."
"It can't be..."
Her phone drops to the ground beside her feet as she wraps her arms around her waist
It was an 11 car pile-up. Icy weather meant for icy roads. Cars without chains traveling a little to fast meant for at least one incident somewhere. But loaded trucks under tremendous weight that are unable to swerve or sharply turn without rocking or sliding or rolling were one of the most dangerous things on busy highways, especially after dark, especially after a snowfall.
Specifically a truck that was cut off by a blue mini-van. The trucker pumped his breaks just a little too hard and turned the steering wheel just a little too hard in a knee-jerk attempt to avoid a collision. The baby on board sign swinging in the back window might have been a reason he panicked a little more than usual, the white snow raining against the cab and white and red lights from cars around him bright against the snow made it harder to navigate that usual. Even driving under the speed limit that evening because of the conditions have done little to change the outcome.
The back half of the truck didn't slow with the front half, in fact...the truck trailer seemed to try to gain momentum and moved away from the cab forcing the cab to follow it with little control of it. The tires had lost traction on the icy road and veered sideways and the whole vehicle was moving with the laws of physics and no mechanical control. The driver of the mini-van would never know he was the cause of 20 deaths that night. Him and his wife and 6 month old baby were out in front of the carnage well before anyone saw it coming. If they had checked their rear-vision mirror and seen braking vehicles in both lanes and headlights moving in all directions instead of in the usual straight lines, they would still not know what happened. Even as they watched it on the news later that night they could never know they were the cause.
Only the truck driver knew exactly what happened. Only he felt the truck become it's own being and ignore it's drivers requests. Only he felt his heart sink in that moment that he knew, without a doubt, that he could do nothing to stop what was about to happen. That 270 tons of metal was traveling of it's own accord. And had he survived, he would have told someone, had he survived he would have blamed himself anyway...to avoid one small incident he had caused a far larger one. He would have taken his own life in grief and pain, he was that sort of guy, the type that cared. But when the truck cab went sideways and detached from the trailer, he was mercilessly thrown into the door followed by the roof and then the dash and finally the steering wheel cracking his skull open. The back half of the truck-trailer, once free, rolled onto it's side and slid into 2 cars in the next lane before plowing across the medium and into two-lanes of oncoming traffic. The first two cars hit the truck-trailer head-on at full speed instantly taking the lives of both drivers and two passengers in one of the cars. The cars immediately behind were too late from realization to reaction and although the brakes were applied, it was too late. Three passengers died on impact plus one driver. The other driver was taken quickly when the car behind rear-ended him.
That car had a young woman driver who had looked down for a moment to change the radio station. The next two cars in the row slamming on their brakes which at least alerted the following cars that they needed to stop. But brakes and snow or ice are a combination best avoided. Both those cars however were unable to even slow down under the conditions and both lost control and were thrown into the growing pile of metal. One lone driver died and in the other car, a mother and father as well as a 10 year old boy and his 6 year old sister.
The driver of the truck had a six year old girl, a girl that would hopefully remember how much her daddy loved her even though he never came home that night.
The next two cars, one of which was following far too close, braked earlier, the one following too close rear-ended the car in front almost instantly killing both driver and passenger.
The lone driver of the other car was braking early enough to slow them down and swerved hard to avoid the crash, eventually lost control, clipped the mangled car in front before plowing into a snow covered bank.
And the final two cars that were unable to avoid the crash altogether, managed to spin out of control and collide with the pile. They both died at the scene, one bleeding out and the other of shock. The drivers of 12 cars and all their passengers died at the scene, including the truck driver.
The one car stuck in the snow was overlooked by the first emergency teams that arrived and started the task of finding survivors. That car, half buried under a foot of fresh snow, wasn't noticed until they saw the sole occupant of the car pulling herself out of the drivers door, taking two steps, and collapsing into the snow.
"We got one." Gruff voices yelled over sirens.
Dark wavy haired, brown eyed, paled face, hands and tee-shirt covered in red blood, she was lifted out of the snow, strapped to a gurney and carefully lifted into a ambulance rescue helicopter.
She was the only survivor of the crash.
...to be continued...