Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Me: 5221; Hwy 47, Greenville Rd, North bound.
Dispatch: 5221 Single car accident Hwy 26 approximately 4 to 6 miles west of the tunnel.
Me: 5221 any further information; injuries?
Dispatch: 5221 no information available from caller; said he was stopped by a guy in the highway and asked to call 911 as soon as he found a phone booth. Caller called from Staley’s Junction.
Me: Copy; running code.
Dispatch: 5221 is running code at 18:21 hours.
I’m Mackenzie Clark, 5221, they call me Mac; let me give you some back ground so you know what, where, when and how come. 5221 is my call sign; Swing shift (52) and (21) is me, regardless of what shift I’m working I’m going to be (21). With that high of a number it’s clear to all the jurisdictions that I’m a pretty new guy with the Sheriff’s Department; I just went past 18 months with the Department starting in late September of 1980. All the Departments use the same radio channel regardless if it’s a city or the County, too identify which agency dispatch is calling you have to throw in the 52 so everyone knows this call is going to the Sheriff’s Department. If I was working day shift I’d be 5121 and grave 5321; the big cheese is the Sheriff and when 5100 comes on the air you know it’s the boss. 5101 Captain on day shift, 5102 Lieutenant, 5103 and on up a few numbers are Sergeants; you get the drift.
Washington County, Oregon is a rather large geographical area and the west end towards the Coast Range, is sparsely populated and has only a few small towns, almost villages they are so small. Closest town with any population and a Fire Department with a rescue unit is Banks and it’s manned only by volunteers, there is no staff on duty. When a call comes in the siren on top of the Fire Department building sounds and the volunteers rush to the Fire house, grab equipment and respond when they have enough people to man a truck or trucks.
Me: 5221, Hwy 26 at Phil Rd, running code. (Siren drowning out the words.)
Dispatch: 5221, Second caller reports injuries, possible fatalities.
Me: Copy, can you roll Banks.
Dispatch: Bank has been notified, waiting for personnel to respond, estimating fifteen minutes to respond and roll.
Me: Copy, I’ll step it up, out running my siren. (“Out running your siren” happens when you
are running so fast that vehicles can’t hear or react to your siren before you’re on them or passing them, you can only hope they see you coming.)
Dispatch: 5221 at 18:26 hours.
It’s been five minutes making good time, punched it up to 90mph, the new Impala is purring, happy at this speed, traffic is light, visibility is clear and the road is dry. Wednesday early evening second week of April is not a busy time of the year on these back roads as you head up and over the Coast range to the beach. Hwy 26 to the coast is a decent road with few patches and wide lanes; west bound cars are few and see the over head lights well before I’m running over them at this speed.
Me: 5221 dispatch.
Me: Couple minutes to the tunnel and loosing radio contact.
Dispatch: 5221 Copy loosing radio contact; be aware Banks Fire has been unable to fill a team we are rolling Hillsboro Fire rescue estimated time to arrival 45 plus minutes.
Me: Copy, it’s the west end; at the tunnel.
Dispatch: 5221 at………… (Cut off, dead air.)
The interior of the car rattles under the siren as it bounces off the walls of the tunnel; I’ll bet it jumped by 25db, my ears are starting to ring. Clearing the tunnel the road flattens out for about two miles and I still have at least 4 to 6 miles to go; no cars in view as the straight stretch open up in front of me; I kick it up to 100mph.
Sweeping long turns, dropping the car back into the 70’s, these long curves won’t support anything more and I’m getting close to where the caller reported the accident. Second long curve and a short straight stretch I can see a man standing on the right side of the road waving; I pass him going into the curve rolling just over 50mph as I drop the siren reducing speed more. At the far end of the curve I can see three cars parked on the left side of the road just off the pavement; there’s a long wide gravel area to the left of the pavement along this section of road giving a good area to park away from traffic. Light smoke drifting across the road pin points the location of the accident even though I can’t see the vehicle obscured by trees. Slowing I pull into the gravel and make my way towards the smoke stopping the car a good distance from the accident site not wanting to disturb any possible tire tracks etc.
Welcome to my nightmare.
There are a couple things I notice right away as I step from my patrol car; no one is near the crash site, they’re standing up by their vehicles a good 50 yards from the smoking wreak. It’s a small group of three people; I can see a man further up the Highway as the other traffic waver of trouble ahead. The small group gives me a little wave but no one walks towards the accident, I can now see that its one man and two women, they’re just huddling together not moving, looking everywhere except towards the crash. The second thing I see that’s odd is there are a couple ravens or crows eagerly eating at something in the gravel in a couple spots out from the opening. One a distance of maybe ten yards from the crash towards the cars parked along the pavement, the other one my direction; both are at a slight angle, this one towards where I parked my car. I think that’s the correct angle that someone would walk from the parked cars to the crash and then away from the crash towards the far sweeping corner where the man was standing waving warning traffic. One other thing I don’t see that’s strange is there are no tire marks in the gravel, not a single skid mark coming from the pavement to the impact site. Something is making the hair on the back of my neck stand up, giving me a clear warning that I don’t like; I don’t like the feeling at all.
I take a couple pictures with the 35 mm as protocol dictates as I slowly move forward trying to take it all in; I still can’t see the wreaked car it was just slightly inside the tree line; you wouldn’t know it was there from this angle without the smoke drifting from inside the trees. The crow finally takes to wing as I near it, there lays a large pile of puke that trails off towards the direction of the man that had waved at me earlier as I arrived. I was close enough to see the other crow was also eating a pile of puke; my little voice in my head starts to groan.
Winds picking up a little changing from the north east sweeping around to the west pushing the smoke down to a low level; I’m going to have to walk through the smoke to get into the slight hole in the woods that the wreak is someplace down in. As the wind swings I can already smell the heavy carbon smell of hot oil and some other smell I can’t quite make out, something sweet but strangely gagging at the same time, doesn’t smell like anti-freeze it’s something else I can’t quite identify.
The strange smell is still on my mind as I round the last tree blocking my sight lines. I’m about twenty feet out from the tree line still walking in the gravel keeping out where I can see a wide view. I can finally see the wreak but it’s not clear even though it’s now only about 20 yards distance, the smoke is obscuring the crash site swirling around being held in close by the thickness of the trees, one moment clearing then nearly completely obscured. I stop taking two quick pictures recording the crash site and the depression in the woods the car has come to a stop in; I look back up towards the three parked cars and the people standing there before moving into the tree line. I see the smoke has swung all the way around and is now drifting directly towards the cars parked up by the pavement. Something’s strange out of place startling me; the man is bent over one of the women and the other one I can’t locate. I can only see the two people clearly by the side of the middle car, man over the woman his hands at her head, neck; oh she’s puking and he’s pulling her hair away from her face; I stand watching until she finishes, lots of dry heaves. He opens the passenger door and she falls into the seat. I finally see the other female, she’s sitting in the front car with her head down, I can just barely make her out as the smoke swirls.
Barbeque; the oily smoke is covering the sweet smell of what I associate with a barbeque; sweet earthy but off somehow. That little voice in my head is now getting loud, a constant high pitched shriek.
I take the last few steps up to the rear of the car; I can’t make out the type of car other than there’s a Volkswagen emblem on the rear panel. The smoke is thick this close coming from the middle of the wreak swirling and twisting into tight circles making it hard to see even now just five feet from the rear bumper. It’s confusing the shape of the car is all wrong, way too short, the width is correct but the length is all off; then I realize, it’s a Volkswagen beetle maybe a mid 1960’s beetle, the front is pushed back smashed from the impact with the tree the whole car now only about five feet in length from tree to that V.W. emblem on the rear. Engine compartment, passenger area is all combined and pushed together in a tight wad. The roof is ripped from the left posts flipped over inverted so the inside is facing up and is twisted now pointing straight out to the right of the car flat like a flapping wing. The car is sitting at an angle running up the side of the tree from the impact making it seem even shorter.
I realize my feet are getting wet, I look down I’m standing in a pool maybe three inches deep, deep enough its pouring into my boots over the laces; but it doesn’t make any sense it’s split neatly in two parts a distinct line separating one half the pool from the other. Way back in my mind over the deafening screams comes the old saying “Oil and water don’t mix” but this isn’t oil and water as the color returns filling in to my eyes, one side is hot oil, the other cooling glossy fresh blood. I force my eyes away from the pool up and back to the car; I don’t understand shock or how it works but I just hadn’t realized that I’d completely ignored twisted in the smashed wreak there was clearly three people jammed between the engine pushed to the front seats and the whole front of the car jammed into the passenger compartment, apparently my mind had taken it all in.
Time went away; the smoke was choking making it hard to breathe, my mouth was dry from mouth breathing fighting to get enough air, there was a deep roar mixing with a high pitched squeal that was hurting my ears; something was pushing into my head riding just over the top of the din, realizing it was a voice “Deputy” louder, “Deputy; are you all right?” I turned, the sound blasting in my ears dropped I could hear the splash of my boots in the sickening pool; there was a young man standing a few feet from me his eyes on the car, eyes growing big as I watched, he blinked a couple times, he looked me in the eye then his eyes dropped slowly working down the front of my Uniform to my feet and the cooling pool. His face twisted into a knot as he spun around running towards what were now four cars parked at the hard top.
The roar in my head of a few seconds ago ended completely in dead silence; I could hear the gravel under his feet as he ran to his car, door slamming, engine starting, tires spinning gravel as he raced away down the highway.
I taste barf, the space between my teeth and cheeks full. I looked down at my hands and they were covered in barf, closer the front of my uniform is no longer brown but now shades of glistening puke. The smell of oil, barbeque and blown bowels is gagging. I could hear the ticking of the engine cooling behind me, the splash as fluids dripped into the pool. Turning back to the car everything is now over bright, the smoke has cleared, everything over sharp over exposed. One ham sized arm of the driver riding along the door window sill a tattooed forearm resting comfortably, elbow at a 45 degree angle against the stub of the front roof post. Head tilted back bright pink as something sharp had split slicing his head in half from the eyes up, top of head hanging over the seat back connected by thin skin. These people were huge, grossly overweight, obese. A picture of a clown car flashed in my brain; I thought how could these people all fit in the front of this little car; then it hit me the center person a woman judging from the watermelon size bare breast the areola the size of my fist must have been riding in the back jump seat area. She was now sprayed across the tree, upper body flattened by the impact thinned by three quarters her skull pancake thin teeth embedded into the bark, her lower legs pinned under frame, the motor ran up between her large ass cheeks cracked and burnt, light pencil thin smoke twisting raising in her ass crack then drifting off to the right. The screaming voice in my head was back rising to a crescendo. Number three far right was again a woman, she was nearly covered as the front of the car had ridden up and over her leaving only her head showing above the seat, but looking past and out into the trees she’d completely emptied her insides as they were hanging from low branches intestines twisted trailing back into the car. Shades of grey pouring into my vision, deafened by the roar, high pitched shrill screaming.
I was shocked by the coldness of the water as they rinsed the puke from the front of my uniform using a hose and the water from the fire truck tanks; my Sergeant was there standing just out of the splash zone. I rode the first rescue unit to the hospital alone, just me and the EMT sitting on the gurney in the back, we didn’t speak.
A day or so later my Sergeant visited me in the hospital; we talked a little about the crash. He said I’d done a great job my first six pictures of the crash scene had turned out great but the rest of the roll of 30 exposures didn’t come out because the camera lenses was covered in puke and had been saved from the water soaking by taking so many pictures the film had come off the roller and was wrapped tight in the film roll. He said I’d taken 12 to 15 pages of notes in my notebook but they were unreadable being wet, soaked and soiled, only my diagram of the crash site was readable. He told me the local paper had done a short article on the crash making me a hero suffering smoke inhalation trying to save the occupants.
He had paperwork all filled out for me on the transfer out of Patrol Division moving to Corrections special teams at the first of the next month.
I’m starting to think things are going to be okay; I’m looking forward to starting again fresh in a new field not much I’m going to miss from before.
From the Ramblings