The Car Fire

The image above is a stock photograph and not my actual car fire, read more below!

Sometimes the best stories happen with near death experiences…

When I was in college, I had went to my in-law’s for Thanksgiving weekend without my wife.  She was on internship in Alaska and so I got to enjoy the weekend with her family and friends.  At the time, her friends and I were building a world in Minecraft.  This was well before the game became popular.

My friend had our world hosted on his computer and we were enjoying a night, it was the list evening there.  Time flew by and before I knew it, it was 4am.  I scrambled, packed up my computer and hit the road.  Bad idea.

Let’s just say I was a little tired.  After a 10-hour gaming marathon that I am not proud of, my senses were a little dull.  And I had a four hour drive ahead of me.  About one hour into my trip, I was feeling an extra sense of exhaustion and closed my eyes for what felt like a second.  Next thing I open them and see a curve ahead as I’m heading for the post on the side of the road.

The accident

I swerve and immediately start fish tailing.  (I’m really glad that I didn’t roll the vehicle, and that the road was clear)  I had cruise control set to 70 MPH and that didn’t let up as I was swerving.  Eventually I reached a point of giving up and went into the ditch on the side of the road.  It was a wide median that had a creek running across it at one point.

I hit a culvert, which ended up knocking my engine block loose and kept careening until I came to a stop just 15 feet from the creek, my front end got wedged between two trees.  Air bags went off, side windows shattered, windshield was shattered, my ears ringing, but I stayed awake.

The aftermath

First thing that I did in my adrenaline rattled state was try to find my cell phone.  I knew right before I crashed, I was listening to The Beatles on Google Music.  I found the phone in tact on the floor in the passenger side.  I looked in the back seat, where my gaming desktop was smoking and screen shattered.  In the front seat I had my school laptop in a bag, I ripped it out to make sure nothing was broken.  Thankfully everything was in tact there.

My adrenaline was still pumping as I opened the car door and walked out with my cell phone.  I got to the side of the road and dialed 911 to report the accident.  A motorcyclist had swung back around after seeing the accident and had already reported it.  He stuck around until the police and ambulance got there.

I was walking around in the ditch when the police and ambulance showed up.  The immediately stopped me and said that I was hurt and that I shouldn’t move around.  I said what do you mean? I looked at my arm, sure enough the back of my arm was gouged out.  Adrenaline is a miracle worker!

As the sheriff is interviewing me, I am asking him if I can go get my school laptop bag from my car, because it’s important and I needed to take it with me.  He did not let me go back and they had me listen to the paramedic.  I think the paramedic thought that I was in shock because I felt like I was rambling on and on about my personal belongings in the car.

The ambulance ride

The paramedic saw the remains of my car, heard my hysterical ramblings and insisted on back-boarding me, I fought that.  I was fine.  But I lost.  They ended up back-boarding me and loading me into the ambulance.  As I was getting back-boarded, I saw smoke coming from the scene where my car was and I freaked again saying I need to get my stuff.

The sheriff said they would salvage my stuff as soon as I leave.  I was brought to the nearby hospital in an ambulance (which is not a cheap taxi service!).  I ended up needing around 25 stitches in my arm.  This was the first time I’ve had stitches, it was exciting.

As the doctor was stitching me up, the sheriff paid a visit.  He said that he could add insult to injury by citing me with reckless endangerment with a vehicle.  But that he wasn’t going to do that.  I thought, great.  Thanks man.

Fast forward a week later, they called me and said my car was at the impound and that I could go retrieve my personal belongings.  I got to the lot and everything was burnt to a crisp.  Everything.

I found my laptop bag in the front seat, pulled my laptop out and it was melted.  I thought, well, I need to take it back to the tech shop to get replaced.  Hopefully insurance will cover it.

The recovery

I worked at the tech shop, so I was the talk of the week when I brought my laptop in.  I was able to remove the hard drive and it didn’t look damaged at all, just a little smoky.  I connected it to our dock and into another computer.  The drive spun up and the data was all in tact!  I was beyond amazed.  We wanted to ship the drive to Seagate and ask if they wanted to do a “fire-tested, data in tact” case study.  They never responded.  But after this, I highly recommend that if you are in need of a hard drive, Seagate(my Amazon link) makes some quality gear!

We left the laptop in the tech shop for the whole time I was there, kind of as a trophy example of “what is the worst you could do to a laptop?” for the other students.

I was without a car for less than a few days, my father-in-law knew someone who had a car for sale.  It was a 1988 Pontiac 6000 that had 25,000 miles on it.  He came to the hospital and told me about it and it showed up the next day.  I was so blessed to walk away from such a high speed accident and on top of that, blessed to have a father-in-law who has such a giving spirit.  I really want to be that way someday.