When you drive for a living you will inevitably come across road traffic accidents. Some are fairly minor. Some not so. I thought long and hard about including this story. It was the hardest decision I have had to make. In the end I decided that I had to, as a monument to ‘Tracey’, and as an explanation as to why I now consider drink-drivers the very scum of the earth. I confess that before this incident I did not drink much, but would occasionally go out and have one or two drinks with the lads. What was the worst that could happen? I was a good driver. A couple of beers wouldn’t make a difference.
This incident changed my mind, and my life. It played a big part in making me the person I am today. If, when you read it, it makes you think twice about having ‘one for the road’ then maybe I would have done someone some good.
Names and locations have been changed. My feelings never can be...
There is a pub in Heysham, on the way to the docks. I don't recall the name; we all called it the Nuclear Arms, due to its location near to the power station. On this particular Sunday night I had taken a trailer load of toilet rolls to the docks, for shipping to Ireland. After dropping it off, I went to our agent's Portakabin to see which trailer I would be bringing back.
As it happened, on this particular night there was none to collect, so I would be going home "Bobtail", or unit only, with no trailer. This meant I would be home early. Result!
There were a few cars leaving from the Isle of Man ferry, and I tucked in behind the queue, waiting to exit the docks. The car in front was a Peugeot estate car, and sat in the rearfacing occasional seat in the back was a young girl. Her name, I discovered later, was Tracey, and that day was her 12th birthday.
The Peugeot went through, and I stopped at the barriers. A couple of minutes later I happened upon a scene of devastation. The Peugeot estate was stopped at the traffic lights. Embedded in the back was a blood red Peugeot 205 GTI.
Panicked, I grabbed my first aid kit from the truck, and rushed over to see what was happening. The driver of the 205 was yelling abuse, so he was okay. I looked in to the mess in the back of the estate car, and for the first time I understood what was meant by ‘my heart froze.’
I struggled in through the back window to the poor child.
Tracey was in a lot of pain. The floor and rear door of the car had folded in, crushing her from mid chest down. From the chest up she was cut by the flyingn glass. She was pale, and not crying, but talking quite calmly about what had happened. I started trying to clean her up, and calm her down.
We talked about the party she had been to in the Isle of Man with her auntie and her cousin. She told me she wanted to be a lorry driver when she grew up, like her uncle Trevor. I told her about my dogs, and she told me about her cats and her pet rat.
The emergency services turned up. They were concerned that I should get out and let one of them in, but I explained that I had spent several years as a paramedic, before I left to drive buses. It was decided that as I had achieved a rapport with her and was physically in there. I would remain, administer the IV and any supporting medication required whilst the fire brigade cut us out.
Over the next thirty five minutes we got to know each other very well. She wasn't too upset when I set up a saline drip, and she accepted my checking her blood pressure and pulse. I was terrified. I had not often seen such low blood pressure in a conscious person.
As the emergency services took her parents from the front of the car, and started cutting away the roof and sides, I got her to smile by telling jokes. She was not, to my surprise, scared by the noises going on around her. She was briefly worried that her mum would be cross when she saw that there was blood on her jumper, but I told her she would be so pleased to see her daughter she wouldn't worry. I promised, if her mum was cross, to buy her another jumper just like it. She decided she'd like one with a sheep on it. No. On second thoughts, she'd like one with a lorry on “just like yours.”
Thirty five minutes it took for the fire brigade to make everything safe for extraction. And then Tracey looked at me and said, "It’s alright. It doesn't hurt any more." And then did something I have not to this day forgiven her for.
The fire brigade got me out and the police were around. So was the driver of the 205. Apparently he had come out of the Nuclear Arms drunk and tried to drive home. He was still cursing the driver and family of the estate car for stopping at the red light.
I drove back to the yard, handed in the keys to the truck and asked them to take me off that job, effective immediately. I could no longer envisage going to Heysham. I could no longer pass the spot. I have never been back to Heysham since.
Her parents were badly injured in the crash. Her mother was pregnant at the time with what would turn out to be Tracey’s little brother. I stayed in contact with them for a while, but...the pain of the memory was too great. I understand that they moved to Spain to forge anew life for themselves. I'm sure her memory lives on in them as it does in me.