Monday, May 07, 2007


RTA on the M4
Originally uploaded by davehodg.
Yesterday, Sunday 6 May, I was pootling up the M4 back to London having taken a small detour to Swindon to get some beer and nibbles for my "Leaving London" party. About a mile from the Chievely exit I saw a puff of brown dust and then what appeared to be a car going end over end.

It was.

I pulled over with a few other cars expecting the worst and called 999 to scramble everything. Two adults had been pulled from the car and were laying on the grass ,and a toddler was being cradled by a fellow passer-by. After checking that there were no more people in the car, I grabbed a little girl as she was about to wander into the traffic. As I carried her up to the verge and tried to calm her, there was some activity further up the bank as some cries had been heard. After a few moments searching, another child was found in a tree having been thrown completely clear.

It took at least 20 minutes for help to arrive but fortunately, two doctors had stopped and got to work with the triage, pulling first aid kits from cars and performing basic first aid.

Once help arrived, it arrived in force: two or three fire engines, several ambulances and plenty of police. The Eastbound M4 was closed, followed half an hour later by the Westbound to allow the air ambulance to land.

According to the traffic police, the car had been in the overtaking lane, so doing at least 80mph, wandered into the drainage gulley, overcorrected, crossed all three lanes, mounted the bank, flipped and touched down at least three times before coming to rest on its roof.

As a skeptic, I don't use words like "miraculous" very often but it certainly verged on it in that no-one was killed in this: either the occupants of the car or any of the cars whose path it crossed.

After an hour or so, I put the little girl into the ambulance complete with space blankets, firmly gripping a new teddy bear given to her by a fireman and donated by the local Lion's Club (I think!) and waved her goodbye. She had hardly a scratch on her, just a bruised finger.

Now the angry part: anyone carrying children in their car without proper restraint should be prosecuted immediately. In this case the parents could well be once they are out of hospital: the police were taking a very strong interest in whether the children were buckled in and the absence of child seats. This is too little, too late. [* Update: the father was driving while disqualified *]

On a personal note, the whole thing was completely surreal. Firstly, this stuff never happens to me, I really hope it's not the start of a trend. I was also frankly impressed with myself and everyone else who stopped, the situation was dealt with calmly and efficiently. It was only when I stopped at Reading searvices and had a cup of tea that the enormity of what had happened sunk in. On the subject of tea, and I realise this is totally trivial, but everyone involved could really have done with a cup of tea while the paramedics were going about their work. What's happened to the Blitz spirit, eh?

Lastly, and I don't know whether it's just the way I am, but I felt very sad that the connections that had been made in that brief time, the bond between the helpers themselves and particularly with the little girl would be so transient. After I file a pro-forma statement today, that'll be it, all over. We'll never know whether the endng is happy or not. Life isn't like TV after all.

[* Update: OK, I've got some closure now. Everyone is fine, the worst injuries were a fractured skull on the youngest child and a broken collarbone on one of the adults. All's well and all that, but it should never have happened in the first place *]

4 comments:

Richard said...

Dave: that is absolutely awesome, and I mean that in the proper sense of the word.

Laura said...

Totally irresponsible of the 'father' to drive whilst disqualified AND regardless of the illegality without properly strapping the kids in. It really winds me up when people do that. I agree he should be prosecuted, well both parents should.

Andy said...

Steady on.

You don't know the circumstances that caused the father to drive when disqualified, there may be extenuating circumstances.

Yes, he's driving when disqualified, but maybe as his actions have fractured the skull of one of his children, that might be lesson enough.

Chris Southam said...

Dave, I'll tell you what is more surreal. I saw you at the concert on Saturday night (I was performing) and then travelled up the M4 to Reading (where I live) Sunday morning to get stuck 15 cars back from the accident.
What are the chances of that!

I'm extremely pleased no one was seriously injured, thank you for doing what you did.