Editor's note: See more pictures of the crash after the article.
On March 12, 2017 a select group from the Union College choir suffered an automobile accident between a semi-trailer and a marginally smaller van.
The group was driving through Evanston, Wyoming, on their return to Union from a choir tour in California when the accident occurred.
Previously, a semi-trailer truck travelling westbound on I-80 had crashed through the guardrail onto the eastbound side of I-80 and into a hill. While slowing down to pass this accident, the Union college van was hit twice by another semi-trailer tanker from behind.
“Everything was in slow-motion," shared sophomore pre-nursing major Christianna Nesmith. "I knew death was a possibility, but I didn’t think anyone would die. Looking back on it I realized that we literally could have died.”
To rewind a bit, a select group of eleven choral students and choir director Dr. Ricky Little drove through California on a singing tour. They stopped and sang at academies as well as toured the Golden State in all her beauty. Dr. Little said the reason for the tour was two-fold: to concertize and to recruit. They wanted to get the name of Union College out there and give students some experience touring and singing.
When asked about his most memorable moments on the trip, senior international rescue and relief major Alex Leonor answered, “While in California, I enjoyed the pier. It was memorable and fun. I would have to say the other memorable experience was the car wreck.”
While everyone made it out alive, the incident nevertheless upset several students, especially those who sustained minor injuries. Nesmith said, “It was 5 o’clock [a.m.] and we were passing by an accident. We slowed down but the semi behind us didn’t, and it tapped us the first time. Then it tapped us again and we tipped. I didn’t see the semi, and part of me is glad I didn’t. The whole experience was sobering.”
Leonor also shared his account. While he was dozing in-and-out of slumber he remembered waking-up for a second and looking over to the right.
He saw a truck on the side of the road with an ambulance next to it and thought to himself, “Man that would really suck if we got in an accident.” As soon as he finished thinking those thoughts *waboom.* A few seconds later they were hit again. He felt as if the van had tipped-over but wasn’t sure since everything transpired so rapidly.
Thankfully, the EMS was already there from the accident he had seen before.
Minor injuries included a broken rib, whiplash and minor concussions but, thankfully, no life-threatening or permanently debilitating injuries. When asked if they would tour again, knowing there would be an impending accident, Leonor and Nesmith both answered “yes” with a smile.
The unspoken reality is that the accident could have been much worse. Perhaps to the point of grim.
We’re talking about an accelerating 80,000 lb tanker against a 7,000 lb van. Call it happenstance, but a miracle occurred that day. Lesson of the day? God provides for those who do His work.
Sean Hendrix is a senior studying biomedical science.