EPISODE 17 — Seatbelts
**Dear readers, Morguie really doesn’t want to risk sounding like your mother, but he really wants you to take a moment and buckle up when you get in to drive or ride in a car. So, please, please do that each and every time, ok?**
A call came in from one of the county coroner’s offices. It was a summer day, and the afternoon monsoonal clouds had boiled up and begun spitting a light mist onto the valley floor below. It seems there had been a most unfortunate traffic accident. A double fatality. CJ and Bill loaded the van with two gurneys, body bags, extra sheets, and other equipment that they might need. They headed out to a major interstate highway, about twenty miles from the mortuary.
The scene of the wreck was at a place where the divided highway narrowed down from four lanes with a median to two lanes divided by solid yellow lines. Yes, it was a dangerous transition; motorists doing last-minute passing tended to collide here.
As the mortuary van approached the scene, CJ and Bill could only notice a single vehicle that was obviously damaged. They could tell it had definitely rolled over before coming to rest on the dirt shoulder, facing the wrong way, on the right. There was a state trooper in the roadway directing traffic around safety flares, nearby. CJ could see the tell-tale yellow plastic tarp covering the passenger side doors as they stepped out of the van. CJ thought it looked rather odd, the tarp blowing slightly, as it hung on the outside of the vehicle. She walked over to assess where the bodies were…as she approached the tarp, she saw steady blood dripping to the dirt below. She pulled the tarp back and gasped. “Oh my God!”
What she saw completely baffled her. I drew myself up a little higher in my ‘pocket’ to see what had made her gasp. Oh my, I thought. How on earth did this body manage to come to rest like this? The body had landed on its feet, so as to be standing nearly perfectly upright, on the outside of the vehicle!!
The mid-sized sport utility vehicle, according to the trooper, had apparently drifted into oncoming traffic, the driver then attempted to return to the proper lane but over-corrected, and the vehicle flipped and rolled over, partially ejecting the lady in the front passenger seat. The utterly impossible seemed had happened when she was ejected…MOST of her went through a window which was only HALF opened; the left arm was caught by an interior handle, remaining on the inner part of the car.
There was a magnificent diamond ring upon the hand which hung precariously on the side-view mirror; blood had run down over the long graceful fingers of the dead woman and was now beginning to dry in long streaks. A tangle of long black tresses also appeared to be a bit caught up in the wreckage of the window frame. I could see the woman was very slender and not much more than five foot five in height.
Without wearing her seatbelt, the woman was tossed violently about the cabin and her tiny body somehow thrown through that half-open door window. It really was obscene, though, to see her standing there.
Her companion, a male, also had not worn his safety belt. He was in between the front seats, impaled on the shifter console. Overall, a very tough scene to bear witness to.
After CJ took all of the trooper’s information and got the preliminary paperwork put back in the mortuary van, she and Bill began the task of removing the deceased. Mind you, in mid-afternoon on a summer day, there was plenty of spectator slow-down occurring in the roadway. People were craning to get a glimpse of the gore and carnage as the troopers and firefighters did their best to hold up sheets to shield the main removal events from view.
They tackled the woman’s removal from the wreckage first. That went easily, since most of her had already been thrown free. CJ and Bill worked quickly, wrapping the body in a sheet before zipping a crash bag around her and putting her into the van. The driver’s extrication would not be so easy.
Bill was too tall to manage the crushed-in side doors of the driver’s side of the SUV. CJ was small enough to get inside and gain access to the young man on the console. As she attempted to bring a sheet around his body, in a fashion to use it as a sling or handle, she found herself straddling his chest. She let out a gasp, and with a look of horror on her face, yelled for another sheet. Bill quickly passed her the sheet and she said in a barely audible voice to him, “The top of his head is gone!” Indeed, the topmost portion of his skull had actually caved inward due to the severe impact of hitting the interior ceiling of the SUV as it rolled. There was a gaping hole about 2 inches in circumference, into which the view of bloody gray matter could be seen. It was most awful! I tucked myself tightly into the bottom of her pocket for the remainder of the task. I did not wish to see anymore!
CJ managed to tie the sheets, one at chest-level, the other at the bend of the knees, and gave the signal to Bill to begin pulling while she pushed. One of the firefighters assisted Bill until the man was extracted. Together CJ and Bill finished wrapping the dead man in another sheet before zipping him into a crash bag. It was time to go. There was a hundred miles’ drive to transport the bodies to the county coroner’s morgue. It would be late when we returned to the mortuary, but that is nothing out of the ordinary in this line of work. CJ marveled at the tragedy, in which the deaths could have been prevented had the people only worn their seatbelts. She tried not to think about the families who would have to be notified; she closed her eyes and silently prayed there would be no children left without parents.
© 2013, C.S. Thompson.