Too close for comfort (1973)

Updated: Mar 18

The thee of us had decided to take the afternoon off school and go a see a film. This involved leaving school at lunch time and hitch hiking to the nearest cinema, which was in Gloucester, ten miles away.

We set out on foot and walked for the best part of three miles, when the weather turned against us. The rain turned to hail and it was soon very cold.

A minivan passed us. The driver was hunched over his steering wheel and ignored our attempts to hitch a lift. Seconds later, a truck coming towards us jack knifed and hit the minivan head on before crashing into a house by the side road.

This all happened just in front of us.

We ran towards the minivan to see if there was anything we could do to help. The front of the minivan was crushed and the engine had been propelled into the driver's compartment. The driver was still alive, but very badly injured. The basic first aid training I have received had not prepared me to deal trauma like that. Feeling rather helpless, I put my coat over him, which at least protected him from the hail. I took his pulse and felt his last few heartbeats.

An ambulance arrived. The passenger side window was wound down and one of the crew asked me to pull back my coat so that he could take a look at the driver. One look was enough. He did not even get out of his cab. He told us to wait for the police and the ambulance drove off.

The police eventually arrived and took our names and told us that we would need to give statements. Several weeks later, I gave evidence at the inquest. The hardest part of that day was when the poor man's wife thanked me for trying to help.

On the day after the accident, the three of us presented ourselves to the headmaster and confessed that we had been bunking off school, witnessed a fatal accident and had been asked to give statements to the police. This turned out to be a wise move as the local newspaper reported the crash and named us as witnesses.

We also had a public exam that day and the school wrote to the examining board to explain that we had had a traumatic experience just before the exam.

The three of us had discussed what we had seen and made a pledge that we not going to let it affect us. I remember the pledge and I remember that events of that fatal day, but we were able to deal with what we had seen.

We never did see that film.

#gloucestershire #jackknife #minivan #track #fatal #inqust #nearmisss #closeshave

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