Saturday, 21 May 2016 — We had spent two hours tootling around the bay on Murray’s boat and had a late (and for me, second) breakfast at Aldo’s at about 11:00. We came out of the upper harbor and turned right onto 7th Avenue. Murray was driving his car, I was in the front passenger seat, and Alex was in the back seat behind me.
We crossed Brommer Street and continued south on 7th Avenue, going maybe 25 mph. I saw a white blur out of the corner of my left eye, a split-second before a car swerved out of the opposing lane and plowed into the front left corner of Murray’s car. I heard two distinct bangs: one was the impact itself, which you’ve heard if you’ve ever been in or witnessed a fender-bender, and the other was the explosion of the air bags. There was no squeal of brakes and there were no skid marks on either side of the street. Air bags deployed, car got pushed into the curb. Car filled with smoke and dust. A few seconds after the air bags deployed there was a third crash into the windshield directly in front of me. I couldn’t see what caused it because of the air bags and smoke, and thought the car was going to blow up with us inside it. The sense of disorientation after a car accident is pretty fierce. What with the loud noises, a car full of smoke and propellant, and air bags blocking the view out, it is really hard to understand what happened.
Fortunately there were several witnesses and passersby who helped us out. The guy in the car behind us was an off-duty out-of-town cop visiting for the weekend with his wife and kids. The passersby got us out of the car and called 911. The guy who hit us was sitting on the sidewalk and the off-duty cop asked him questions. From what I overheard the guy said he was on medication for schizophrenia and thought he was going to the beach; after the collision he had gotten out of the car and run over Murray’s car, stumbling or falling onto the windshield which explained how the windshield had gotten broken. He didn’t get far before collapsing on the sidewalk, I think. I could see that he was bleeding.
Emergency vehicles–2 fire trucks, 2 ambulances, 2 CHP officers on motorcycles–arrived on the scene after about 10 minutes and had the street blocked almost immediately. EMTs decided that the other guy needed help most; the lead EMT told one of the ambulance drivers that he would be a flyer (which we later learned meant he needed to be airlifted to a trauma center). The three of us were checked out by the EMTs (my blood pressure was 180/110, when it normally is in the 110/60 range–amazing what adrenaline will do) on the street and we decided to go to the ER on our own. The CHP officers asked us what happened and took our statements. One of them gave Murray a case number so he can follow up with his insurance company. Rogan came to pick us up. There wasn’t enough room in his car for all of us plus the stuff from Murray’s car so he and Alex took the stuff to Murray’s house while Murray and I waited for the tow trucks. Tow trucks arrived, smashed cars were hauled away, and Rogan came back to take us all to the ER.
What I don’t have a picture of is the passenger side of the car. The rear right wheel, which took the brunt of the force from colliding with the curb, was partially folded underneath the car.
Bottom line: We’re all okay, just bruised and battered. Alex and Murray both have nasty contusions from their seat belts. I have a stiff neck, muscle soreness around my ribs, a small abrasion/bruise on my right cheek, a bruised left knee, minor abrasions on my hip bones from the lap belt, and bruises on my right leg from knee to ankle (I think from hitting the dashboard?). The top of my head is starting to feel a bit abraded, nothing serious. We’ve been told to take it easy and that tomorrow we’ll feel worse than we do today. Ibuprofen + ice is the formula for the next several days. No strenuous exercise, either.
All the safety equipment in Murray’s car worked exactly as it was supposed to. Air bags kept us from being much more severely injured, and given that the other guy smashed into the windshield exactly where my head would have been, I’m feeling very grateful.
I was able to drive home, but confess to being leery driving on Mission Street. Passing within a few feet of cars going the opposite direction gave me the heebie-jeebies.
So, no working the tides this weekend for me. I’m glad it’s not one of the spring’s better low tide series.