Road Trip – Apparently, Good Samaritans Aren’t An Endangered Species

This article doesn’t have much to do with arts administration but I think it’s worthwhile to take a moment and recount what happened on the second day of our road trip to the Grand Teton Music Festival…

We left our “room with a cornfield view” early in the Nebraska morning full of coffee and anxious to get the day’s 11 hour trip over with. About 20 minutes into the trip, I noticed a red flash about a quarter mile ahead of us streaking across both lanes of I-80 followed immediately by an enormous dust cloud from the median. It was obvious that a vehicle just ran off the road so we pulled over to see if anyone was hurt. I left for the accident scene while my wife called 911 to report the accident.

It only took a second to see that the situation was not good. Two passengers were splayed awkwardly in the median strip and the car was on its side with the top severely damaged. As I reached the vehicle a third passenger popped her head out of where the driver’s door window would have been.

Fortunately, several other passersby stopped to investigate. Two of us cleared a path for the trapped passenger to exit via the rear of the vehicle while a trucker produced several orange cones and flares to mark the accident scene and close off a lane of I-80 to prevent other motorists from running into debris lying in the road.

At the same time, an elderly couple split up to check on the two passengers that were thrown from the car during the accident. After exiting the car, the third passenger appeared to be unhurt, externally at least, but was in a severe state of psychological shock as she could not recall her own name or those of companions.

After finishing with the road cones and flares the trucker took the dazed girl and sat her down a safe distance from the vehicle, which began to billow smoke from the engine compartment. I went over to a passenger that was thrown from the car; a girl that appeared to be in her early twenties. The elderly lady was holding her hand and informed me that she was just regaining consciousness.

Fortunately, another passerby carrying a black nylon kit with a distinctive red cross over a white circular background appeared and came rushing over to our position. He donned a pair of latex gloves and identified himself as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He did a quick inspection of the injured girl and other than several moderate abrasions and a few heavy cuts on her face she appeared otherwise unhurt. Unfortunately, upon rolling her gently to the side to inspect her back, he noticed some blood pooling on the ground underneath the girl and she cried out in pain. He instructed us to immediately return her gently to her back and while doing so, the intensity of the pain was strong enough to bring her back to full consciousness.

The EMT directed the elderly lady to continue holding her hand for me to hold the sides of her head and left strict instructions to not let her sit up or roll over. He then rushed over to the other injured passenger, who had also regained consciousness and was moaning in pain.

The injured girl was beginning to become quite unruly and it was difficult for the two of us to keep her still; fortunately, one of the other passersby joined in to keep her immobile. After a few moments of looking around with a wild expression on her face and asking us to let her up I was able to get her to focus on looking at me in the eye and started asking her some questions to help keep her mind from focusing too much on the pain.

We were able to get her first and last name and discovered that she was married but she couldn’t remember her husband’s name, although she did say the injured male was not her husband. We also discovered that she had a cell phone with her so once the EMT returned and took over holding her head I went to look for it (fortunately, the car had ceased billowing smoke by that point).

Luck was on our side as it only took a few seconds to stumble across a cell phone sitting by itself in the grass about 10 feet from the car. Unfortunately, after showing the phone to the injured girl she said that wasn’t hers. Furthermore, there were no programmed numbers in the phone’s address book but the uninjured girl we helped out of the car earlier was beginning to come around and recognized the phone as belonging to the injured male, who had now lapsed back into unconsciousness.

I gave the phone to the elderly gentleman helping the dazed girl and went back to the injured girl. The EMT instructed me to resume holding her head as he returned back to look after the unconscious injured male. Shortly thereafter, two ambulances arrived and the paramedics got right to work. Judging by their attire, jeans, shorts, polo shirts, etc., the paramedics were all volunteers but they immediately took control of the situation and for the passersby, it was over as quickly as it started.

Everyone, save the passerby EMT, carefully worked their way across the interstate to their vehicles. After washing the dirt and blood off of my hands (thankfully we had plenty of water and some antibacterial gel) we simply hopped in the car and got underway. After filling her in on the events, my wife said the paramedics arrived about 15 minutes after she called 911 and we were back on the road five minutes after that.

In the end, it’s good to see that Good Samaritans aren’t an endangered species as there seemed to be just enough of them as were needed for this situation. Everyone was poised and between all of us, there was the necessary emergency equipment the situation required. Of course, the good fortune to have one with professional medical training was invaluable. Looking back at the event, everyone was calm and the scene seemed very organized.

Unfortunately, I have to assume the accident was the result of human error. Shortly before the accident, I remember the red car coming up fast behind us and nearly clipped the rear of our car as it moved to the other lane at the last possible moment to avoid rear-ending us. It then veered sloppily back into our lane and sped off.

We were traveling right around the posted 75 MPH speed limit so I assume they had to be traveling at least 10 MPH in excess of our speed. Given the amount of damage to the vehicle and the circumference the camping gear they were carrying was strewn across the accident site, they lost control of the car at a fairly high rate of speed. Still, it’s comforting to see Good Samaritans were around.

I remember a contrary experience stopping to investigate an accident I witnessed happen along the I-95 corridor between Baltimore and Washington D.C. several years ago. Although traffic was relatively light, no one else bothered to stop. Unfortunately, that driver wasn’t as fortunate as those from yesterday’s accident as it was obvious that he died upon impact when his small car struck a large interstate light mounted in the median (I won’t bother to explain why this was obvious).

I hope the passengers from this accident fare better and if I ever find myself in their position, there are a few Good Samaritans willing to offer help when it’s needed most.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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