I witnessed a car crash last night about fifteen minutes outside of Apia. I was at a friends house when a pickup truck crashed within 40 meters of where we were standing. It was around 9:30 pm at night, when we heard the very loud bang, we saw from afar that a taxi stopped where the vehicle was, hanging over the water, held only by the power cables that hold the pole to the ground.
Being trained in first aid, we ran to the location of the accident. When we arrived at the scene, the first thing that I saw was an older Samoan man, in his 40s shouting loudly at a young blonde Samoan teenager. “I saw you overtake the vehicle, how can you not see that this is a bend?” The youngster screamed back: “I didn’t see the bend, it’s dark and I don’t know this road.”
Another teenager was standing next to her, it was clear that no one was injured, but the car was in no condition to be moved.
My first thought was to make sure that the young women were ok. I walked over and looked closely at the young woman who was screaming, and asked if she was ok. She was in a state of shock, but she was standing and seemed ok, at least physically.
I said a few words to the gentleman berating the young woman, and he left promptly to inspect the tyres of the vehicle.
From what I saw, the vehicle was speeding from Apia towards the eastern side, on the coast, when they came to a bend, not knowing the road, she made a swerve that was too far to the left and ended up heading straight for the power pole, lucky for them, the cables that hold the pole to the ground obstructed her trajectory and instead propelled the vehicle and threw it at a 180 degree angle, only to be caught again by the second cable thus preventing the car from being thrown into the ocean. Someone was looking out for these two last night, they were mere inches away from being wrapped around a power pole and then thrown into the ocean.
But this post is about what happened next.
After some scattered dialogue, it was established that the screaming young woman, was the driver. While I was talking to her, the smell of alcohol was quite apparent in her breath.
The other young woman, was sober and seemed in a very calm state of mind considering the circumstances, so while a friend talked to the driver, I approached the calm young woman.
This is how the conversation went.
Are you ok?
Passenger: My friend is very upset, she was just very upset, so it caused the accident.
Was she drinking?
Passenger: She didn’t drink that much, just a shot.
A shot is drinking.
Passenger: I’m sorry.
Don’t say sorry to me, say sorry to yourself. You seem like a very smart person, the decision to get in the car with your friend who was drinking could have costed you your life.
Passenger: I didn’t know she was this upset.
Do you need to inform your parents?
Passenger: I don’t want them to know.
She told me she was wearing a seat belt and she could not convince her friend to do the same, which explains why she seemed calm. If she was not in the seat belt, she could have been thrown out of the vehicle during the accident.
I didn’t probe her for the number of her parents, but after the helpers examined the condition of the vehicle it was decided that there was no way it could be moved without a tow truck or machinery.
So then we had to ask the driver to call her Dad. This is how the conversation went.
We need to call your Dad, the car cannot be moved and we need to make arrangements for you both and for the car.
Driver: Oh my God, my Dad is going to be so pissed off.
After another back and forth she called her Dad. The Dad answered, she asked for him to call back, he did. It was obvious that she was in no state to have the conversation with her father, and her words were not making sense, so I took the phone and got friends to calm the driver down while I talked to her father.
This is how the conversation went.
Hi I’m ++++. Your daughter is incoherent because she was just involved in a car accident, she is fine, she has no visible injuries but it would be worth checking, however we wanted to inform you, the vehicle cannot be moved without a tow truck.
Father: What the hell is she doing at (names the village).
I don’t know, but she is safe.
Father: (inaudible cussing) What about the car?
It can’t be moved.
Father: What do you mean it cant be moved.
It’s stuck in power cables.
Father: Put her back on the phone now.
Your daughter is in shock and is not in a condition to talk. But you need to come pick her up.
Father: I don’t have a car to pick her up in. Put her on the phone right now.
I had the phone to my husband instead, who goes on to explain again that his daughter is in shock, this time the father insists yet again to speak to the daughter.
This is what I overhear.
Daughter: (In tears) I went to pick up (names passenger) because no one understands what i’m going through. No one listens to me. I’m sorry Dad, but no one understands me.
This type of tone continues for a while until she hangs up.
Four of us are now talking to them about the next steps and a friend says to her: You two are very lucky, you two could have ended up in the ocean, dead if not for those cables.
Driver: I wish I was in the ocean right now. My Dad is going to be so mad.
My friend, a mother of two grown young men kicks into comfort mode and tells them it doesn’t matter what happens from then on, as long as they are alive, that is the main thing.
When I went away from the scene, the driver and her friend now safely tucked in our friends house awaiting her parents, these were my thoughts.
1. Not once did the father ask if his daughter was ok.
2. Everyone at the scene before us were ready to beat up the driver of the vehicle, even though it did not harm them.
3. Why was this young woman drinking, and what was she doing driving?
4. Why did her friend get in the car knowing that the driver was drinking.
5. How come her father did not know where she was?
6. What if that was my daughter?
The incident is a painful reminder that some of the idle rich youth of Samoa need to be saved from themselves. When you give a young person who has never learnt to be responsible in their lives unlimited resources, some of them make decisions like this young woman, these two were lucky their lives were spared, but it could easily not have been.
But more than anything, this incident is a painful reminder that instead of an initial caring thought for those whom we love who have just been traumatized by something, the initial thought is anger. Those who were first at the scene were not attending to the young women, but instead were berating her for driving so fast.
When I got home, I looked them up on Facebook and found out that one was a national representative for Samoa, both just graduated from high school. They were so young and seemed well loved, last night could have been their last. Fortunately it was not. I hope however that the incident taught the driver a life lesson.