‘You will see that face in the small hours’

Car accident ANL-140319-160244001
Car accident ANL-140319-160244001
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On the Beat with Inspector Jim Tyner

It’s a beautiful starry night, crisp and cold enough for fog on yourbreath. It’s the sort of night that makes you feel glad to be alive.

The nightclub has emptied without any problems and you and your colleague have returned to your police car. It’s been a long shift and you are just carrying out one last patrol around the villages before booking off duty when you hear on the police radio that there is a ‘serious’ collision on the A152 between Surfleet and Gosberton.

You are only two minutes away. The rotating blue lights of the police car cast an eerie blue glow across the adjacent fields as you accelerate away. There is no need for the police sirens and the only sound you hear is the beat of your quickening heart. You never know what you’re going to find at the scene: How serious is ‘serious’? Sometimes cars can be a total write-off but drivers amazingly walk away unscathed. Is it a drink driver? How many vehicles will be involved? Have any made off from the scene?

But these are just momentary thoughts, knotting your stomach, as you very quickly arrive at the scene. The road is unlit apart from the blue glow of the police light like the rotating beam from a lighthouse, lighting up the image before you every other second. The tableau is imprinted on your mind forever.

There is only one vehicle involved. A car has gone off the road and hit a tree. A car has gone off the road and hit a tree at considerable speed. A car has gone off the road and hit a tree at considerable speed and you know that this is as serious as it gets.

You call it in on the radio and ask for further officers but you know they are at least 20 minutes away, dealing with a suspicious incident.

Your colleague runs to the driver’s side of the crashed car and you run to the passenger side. Surreally, you notice that the engine from the car is lying on the side of the road about two metres ahead of where the rest of the car has wrapped itself around the tree. And it really is wrapped: the front end of the car is missing and the wings are either side of the tree in a macabre embrace. You can’t see the front wheels.

The rear tailgate is ripped off and at this moment in time you can’t tell what sort of car it used to be. The car has crushed like a concertina and is only about half of its original length.

There are three teenagers in the car. The driver, a front seat passenger and a rear seat passenger. The rear seat passenger is screaming loudly. “Good”, you think to yourself , “he’s alive, so I don’t need to worry about him for a minute.” You remember your police trainer telling you: always check the silent ones first.

While your colleague checks the driver, you check the front seat passenger. Her eyes are open but glazed over and she is unconscious with no visible external injuries apart from tell-tale bruising around the neck. You fear the worst but begin CPR with two rescue breaths and are just about to start chest compressions when you are joined by a paramedic that has arrived. You feel guiltily grateful that the paramedic takes over, but then everything takes a devastating turn as the paramedic confirms your worst fears: there is nothing to be done for the poor young girl who, only a short while ago, was enjoying a night out with her friends.

You know that for a long time you are going see that teenager’s face in those small sleepless hours of the night. But that’s for later.

You go to help your colleague. Sadly the driver has catastrophic injuries and is also dead. Your colleague is giving first aid to the rear seat passenger. A fire crew has arrived and is cutting the roof off. All three emergency services work together like clockwork and the young man is quickly removed from the back of the crumpled metal that used to be a car. Amazingly, he has only minor cuts, grazes and whiplash injuries.

The ambulance leaves with their patient. The fire crew packs up and goes and now there is nothing to do but wait for the accident investigation team. After the screams of the young man and the noise of the hydraulic cutting equipment all is now suddenly, deathly, quiet. In a few minutes the circus will arrive and there will be loads of work to do, but for a moment you and your colleague return to the warmth of the police car.

As you do you look up: it’s a beautiful starry night, crisp and cold enough for fog on your breath. It’s the sort of night that makes you feel glad to be alive.