Caitlin, Liam, Emma, Sophia and I had one of the best weekends a family could ask for. I had taken off Friday to celebrate Caitlin and I’s birthday so that we could go to Disneyland and the day could not have gone any better. Saturday started off just as amazing as the Friday before it. We left early for Santa Barbara to meet some friends we had not seen for a long time.
That morning, to save gas, we decided to use our little Chevrolet Sonic. The weather was perfect, with the sun shining on us helping to keep our positive family mood. This meant our normal singing of Disney and Christian songs in the car from our home in Simi Valley to Santa Barbara and back. On the way back we made a quick stop at the outlet mall, where Caitlin was able to get a new sweater at the Banana Republic store, then we headed home so the kids and I could take an afternoon nap.
Once the kids and I got up we walked to a local park so the kids could play, then decided to head out to dinner. The assumption was that we would keep using our little red Sonic, but at the last minute I turned to Caitlin and asked her if she was ok if we took the Chevrolet Traverse, and as always, she said sure.
Our dinner place of choice was Buffalo Wild Wings as my In-Laws had just sent us a gift card for our Birthday for the restaurant. As we pulled into the parking lot we noticed an old car show going on, so we took the kids around to see all the cars which they loved as much or more than I did. We headed to the restaurant and got a table that was located outside. It was a little cold, but the heaters above head kept us at a perfect temperature, plus we could see the sun setting in the background. The view of the valley was amazing. After we finished eating we headed out to the Traverse, loaded up the kids and headed towards home.
As we entered the highway, Caitlin and I started talking about what an amazing weekend it was turning out to be. Our kids have been very well behaved and everything just seemed to go right. From there we started talking about going to church the next day, what car I wanted to replace our Sonic with and if we would get a Traverse again to which we both agreed we would. As we pulled off the highway our conversation had reverted to what a great weekend it was turning out to be, then I turned right on to the main street that leads us to our home. The kids had fallen asleep and to help the kids stay asleep I made sure to be extra gentle with my driving. To extend our conversation and hand-holding moment, I kept at or near the speed limit as neither of us really wanted to go home.
As we started to approach the intersection where two main streets connect I saw a black sports car in the oncoming traffic race his engine to gain speed only to have his backend come out from him causing him to start sliding. As soon as I saw him lose control I let off the gas and started to move our car to the right, as we had been in the left lane of a 4-lane road, with a goal of reducing any chance he would hit us or hit the side of the car with Caitlin in it. He looked to be doing 60 plus mph and we were going about 45 mph at that moment. I saw him come very close to the car in front of him then out of nowhere he made a very sharp left turn slamming right into our Traverse on the driver’s side of the car.
In a flash, I heard the crunching of metal and could feel my seatbelt tighten while the steering wheel, side and center airbags went off. The next thing I remember was the seatbelt holding me tight as our Traverse got thrown back, coming off the ground and traveling in the air 20 plus feet. As the car was airborne, all I could think about was Caitlin and the babies praying they would be ok. I also remember looking around noticing the side airbag and middle airbag as I bounced between them. The Traverse made a violent crash to the ground and as it landed you could hear more metal crunching with babies screaming in the background. I immediately turned to Caitlin to make sure she was ok, as I knew as long as I heard all three kids crying, they would be fine. Her right leg hurt badly but she had no bleeding or signs of major injuries. At this point, the car was full of the airbag chemicals which had a terrible smell while giving the illusion the car was on fire.
I looked up at our OnStar button and remembered we had just let the subscription lapse so no one would be calling to help out so I quickly started looking for my phone and could not find it, nor could I figure out how to get Caitlin’s to dial 911 fast enough, so I handed her the phone, and tried getting out the driver’s door to help the kids. By this time the Traverse had turned up the interior lights, unlocked the doors and turned on the hazard flashers. I remember thinking how helpful it was that the car knew what I needed and just did it without manual input from me or Caitlin.
I took off my seatbelt and tried to open the driver’s door but as one could tell by the pictures, there was no way it was going to open, so I climbed through the middle of the front seats and headed back to the kids. I pushed open Emma’s door unbuckled her and handed her to a neighbor we had never met, turned around to grab Emma and handed her to another neighbor I had never met, then got Liam out. From this point forward, Liam would not leave my side for anything. I jumped out of the Traverse, opened the passenger’s door and helped Caitlin out.
We had a super sweet neighbor that we never met, who I am sure is a Grandma, holding Sophia and a man about my age holding Emma. Caitlin was stating her right leg her really bad so I sat her down, checked on the babies, who had since stopped crying and curled up to the people who were holding them, then walked the Traverse to do a quick assessment of what happened with Liam following. In the distance, I could see the black sports car completely mangled and more than 1/2 dozen cars pulling over to help. It did not take long to realize our Traverse was totaled and ambulances were needed, so I grabbed the baby bag along with any other belongs I thought we might need and put them next to Caitlin. The same wonderful people helping us out kept telling me to sit down as they where sure I must have sustained some injuries though at this point only my upper back hurt.
The gentleman who had Emma put her in Caitlin’s lap as I sat down to hold Liam and before I sat down we could hear and see the firetrucks coming around the corner. It was strange that during this period people were driving through the wreck and in some cases fairly fast. After handing off Emma, the nice neighbors asked if we needed anything like water, blankets or snacks for the kids. I stated that we had blankets in the car and asked that they get it for us along with a few other items and they did as the fire department started to assess the situation.
As soon as the Firemen got out, they asked if anyone else was in the Traverse or if we had any life-threatening injuries so we told them no one else was in the vehicle, that Caitlin’s right leg hurt really bad and so did our upper backs but the kids seem to have sustained zero injuries. They quickly went to Sophia to check her out since she was only 6 months old, then continued to check each one of us. Shortly thereafter EMTs arrived on the scene continuing the work that the Firemen had started. While checking us out, a Simi Valley Police Officer walked up and started asking me what happened.
I explained to her the story, then proceeded to ask if the guy who hit us had insurance and was under the influence. She said that she would find out and make sure I got all the information needed. At this point, we started texting family and friends to let them know we were ok but possibly would need help getting home from the hospital. By this time my chest started hurting and I was having a hard time breathing so they encouraged both of us to have an ambulance take us to the hospital which meant we needed someone to pick up the kids as they will not put them in an ambulance unless they need to be. Caitlin texted friends we have nearby about the needed help and they agreed to get there as soon as they could. These are the type of friends you can count on as if they were family, always dropping whatever they have going on to lend a hand.
The lady holding Sophia stood nearby holding her as if it was her own grandchild as Sophia was sleeping. Emma was curled into Caitlin and Liam had fallen asleep in my arms by this point. The Firemen had pulled out our car seats and in the EMTs were preparing to take us away. While waiting for our friend to show up a news copter helicopter flew overhead shining a light on us and a person walked down the street filming the accident. While this was happening the Simi Valley Police officer came back, to let me know the other driver had insurance and they have a suspicion he was under the influence. She gave me her card with the accident report number, then let me know I could call her with any questions or concerns and that the report would be ready for me to pick up on Monday. The report would include all of the other driver’s contact and insurance information, so I did not have to worry about getting it myself.
It seemed like hours before our friends showed up, but I am sure it was less than 15 minutes. Our friends took the kids while they put Caitlin and I on Spinboards and wheeled us to the same ambulance. The Spinboards made the ride super uncomfortable but we both kept our spirits up, making sure to hold hands as we headed towards the hospital. During the ride one of the EMTs commented on our positive attitude stating that we had been the most upbeat people he has ever gotten from an accident like this and we both responded that we had no reason not to be positive, our kids are fine and in the end, we will be too.
They wheeled us into the hospital, did blood work, CAT scans, you name it. We also requested a full check on the children and in the end, God, our Chevrolet Traverse and the Diono car seats kept us from having anything more than sore bodies, bumps, and bruises. Even the bleeding was limited to minor cuts that could be covered with household bandages. After a few hours they released us and we went home, with me driving us home in our little red Sonic as my incredible awesome aunt and uncle picked it up along with additional baby supplies for us.
I have slept no more than 6 hours in the past 48 hours as I keep waking up in pain and I cannot get this story out of my head. Liam has seatbelt burns, wakes up screaming for me in the night and seems extra protective of making sure I am near him throughout the day. Sophia and Emma are moving around as if nothing happened, though you can see seatbelt burns on Emma. Caitlin is still in pain but is moving around slowly like me.
The outside of our Traverse might look bad, and the inside is torn apart from the airbags, but all the interior structure is intact. We will replace our Traverse with a similar GM product and our Diono seats with Diono seats. But even more importantly, while leaving the hospital, Caitlin and I stopped to pray and give thanks to God for protecting us and our babies.
My lesson to others on this; DO NOT DRIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE! DO NOT DRIVE IN A WRECKLESS MANNER ON PUBLIC ROADS! When purchasing a vehicle for you and your family, do not put safety last thinking you are an amazing driver who will never get in an accident as there are more and more people driving under the influence than ever before because of Marijuana being legal to use. The last place you should look to save money or purchase something based on how it looks is a child seat. Do the research, spend the money, and make sure your children have the best protection you can give them as you will never regret the extra $100 or the ugly look if you know they will have little to zero injuries after such an accident. Lastly, make sure to thank God and your traveling Angels often, as sometimes they might be your final defense in a world that can often throw you a curveball.
I want to end by thanking all the people that stopped or got out of their homes to help us, especially the sweet woman who comforted Sophia back to sleep, the Gentleman who just stood by us helping in any way he could, giving comfort to Emma and helping me get things together and without say, the Simi Valley Fire, Police and EMT department, who are all outstanding heroes in our community. We hope one day to meet the engineers and executive teams at General Motors and Diono who made safety a priority to ensure family’s like ours do not end up with life threatening injuries due to other’s who make poor decisions. THANK YOU!