Brakes screeched, like a loud scream from the car as if it knew exactly what was about to happen.
The shiny red Mazda couldn’t stop – it was impossible to stop in time – it slammed into the back of an idling taxi, crushing the rear right up to the front seats. Going into an uncontrollable spin into the oncoming traffic of the intersection of Denny Avenue and Albany Highway, where it hit a near-by pole causing it to bounce onto the road.
Daniel Wynhorst, a nearby witness, exhaled – a breath he didn’t realise he was holding. He released his grip on his steering wheel – a grip he didn’t realise was making his knuckles turn white. He turned to his friend and passenger, Toby, who witnessed the catastrophic event unfolding in front of them, and they knew. They knew exactly what just happened. And they knew they had to help. They just didn’t know they will have to live with what’s to come.
“The first thing that went through my mind was ‘Fuck… did this really just happen,’” Daniel says.
Normal, average, everyday people witness the majority of road accidents. It could be your neighbour, your teacher, your friend, or it could be you. Chances are, most of these people don’t have any training in how to act in a situation where a complete stranger is at risk of dying right in front of their very eyes. They typically react in one of two ways: They are either frozen in fear, or they jump into action to try and save a stranger.
One of these accidents was witnessed on March 1 by 22-year-old Daniel Wynhorst, a car service advisor, and 26-year-old Toby Israng.
It’s 1.40 in the afternoon, Daniel and Toby (long time friends) are driving down Albany Highway in Kelmscott on the way to Toby’s parents house when a red Mazda slams into the back of a taxi, pushing it into a busy intersection.
“The damage was unbelievable… the whole back end of the taxi was crumpled... it looked like a crushed beer can,” describes Daniel as he looks off into the distance. He holds himself up in his seat, in a stiff position, almost uncomfortable yet still casual, with a sombre, thoughtful expression upon his face.
“The driver’s head was wedged between the B-pillar of the car – where the front drivers door and back passenger’s door meet – and his seat’s headrest,” recalls Daniel as he remembers Toby and himself rushing out of their vehicle to the victim.
“He looked at me… no response, but his eyes had like a wiggle to it when I was yelling at him, ” Daniel’s voice gets softer as he grips his hands together.
The victim’s heart stops while trapped in the vehicle – Daniel still hoping, still thinking that he is alive as he sees what he thinks is movement in his eye.
Adrenaline kicks in for both Daniel and Toby as they rip off the taxi driver’s door and carefully laid the victim on the ground where Daniel is instructed to conduct CPR by an off-duty trauma nurse. Sweat beads down his head as he tries to recall everything he has ever learnt for first aid.
“He died in the vehicle while I was holding the back of his head, I was there… I was looking at him while he passed,” Daniel whispers.
He clears his throat, adjusts his position in his seat and continues.
“I thought he was alive… but when his tongue dropped down into his throat… that’s when I kind of knew something wasn’t right, but it wasn’t my call – it was just an uneasy feeling,”
“There was never a point where I knew there was nothing I could do – it was just continue doing… I had no emotions.”
The Western Australian Police crash statistics show an increase of fatalities and critical injuries within the past year. In Western Australia, the total number of fatalities due to a car accident was 41. This year, in 2015, there have already been 43 fatalities within the past 3 months (“Crash Statistics,” 2015, para. 1).
People who witness these accidents and rush to help, all have one thing in common; they do not condone human suffering. Those who wish to relieve the pain of human suffering do these acts of compassion, and a prime example would be those who try to save a complete strangers life in a unpredictable accident.
Although Daniel and Toby were not fully trained professionals, their compassion and determination made them jump to the victim’s aid.
Daniel’s story is not dissimilar to that of Janet Vince, a nurse who came to the aid of a similarly tragic accident.
It’s early morning and Janet Vince, a nurse at Swan Kalamunda Health Services, gets her children ready for school in Casuarina. A loud, thunderous crash echoes through the house stopping Janet in confusion. She immediately takes action, knowing the sound was not normal, jumping the back fence onto Thomas Road where she is confronted with a horrific head on collision with a large, off centred truck and a small Ford KA.
“I ran over to the car which was squashed against the person in there and literally had to lift the windscreen off him to see… I checked for a pulse, any signs of life, but there was nothing, nothing from him at all,” Janet describes as the afternoon light shines on her through her living room windows.
“The hardest thing from that moment was knowing there was nothing you could actually do… and then having to put the windscreen back down on him and step away from him.”
Nobody wants to be in a situation of fear and chaos. The compassion taking over the fear in situations like these is what drives a Good Samaritan to help a stranger, even if there is nothing they can do. The unseen cost of being unable to help somebody and witnessing him or her pass can be a psychological downfall of guilt. This guilt, if gone unrecognised by others leads to greater psychological trauma such as depression. Nobody wants to witness the death of a stranger in front of him or her because of a silly driving mistake.