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Fed-X Truck vs Our Minivan - It's a Long Way Down

Updated: May 18

Story by Randy Grathen

One of the fundamental laws of physics says that two objects

cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Here’s proof.

My sister Kristine’s son got married in July of 2007. They all live in North Carolina. Because we ran a pressure washing company in Camdenton Missouri at the time, I couldn’t go. So, Laurie, my mom and our great-niece Jenna loaded into our Mercury Monterey minivan, and headed for the Carolinas, a distance of just over 1000 miles. Part of their drive took them through the Great Smokey mountains. If you’ve never driven those mountain roads in the fall you are missing out on one of the most spectacular displays of Fall scenery you’ll find anywhere.

After attending the wedding and hanging out with family for a couple of days they started back for Camdenton. It was raining as they began their climb up into the mountains. Did I mention the roads through the mountains are very windy and hilly with steep grades. Your engine, brakes and power steering get a good workout.

Laurie called to let me know they were beginning the drive back. Cell phone reception in the mountains was impossible back then so I knew I probably wouldn’t hear from her again until they stopped at a hotel for the night. It is about an eight-hour drive to Nashville, their next stop. However, four hours later I get a phone call. “We’ve been in an accident but we're fine.” she said.

She explained that they’d been broadsided by a Fed-Ex truck with tandem trailer. The driver was cited for failure to maintain lane control while they were passing him on the left, up an incline in heavy rain. The truck driver claimed his brakes locked up and he lost control of the truck.

The out-of-control truck forced the van against a concrete retaining wall. His front wheels had those big pointy spiked lug-nuts that pierced, then shredded the entire passenger side of the vehicle. The momentum caused him to rake the side from bumper to bumper, and as he finally began to slow, he ground his way through the side of the van going back the other way. The lug-nuts cut all the way through the door to the inside door panels. All the air bags deployed, including side-curtain air bags we didn’t even know we had. All four tires blew, and the windows exploded out of the passenger side and back end of the van. When the grinding and shredding stopped, the van was up against the concrete retaining wall. The back hatch was jammed and none of the doors would open so they had to climb out the rear window.

The miracle part of this story only became apparent after they got out and looked at their surroundings. The retaining wall they ground against was about a mile long. Had they been hit sooner or later than they were, there was no retaining wall. Instead it would have been a 40-foot drop into the two eastbound lanes below. That's the equivalent of driving off the roof of a four-story building. If sailing over the embankment and the sudden stop after a 40-foot drop didn’t kill them; remember all the airbags had already been deployed, they could have been rammed by oncoming traffic on the road below.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol called for a tow truck while Laurie, mom and Jenna were transported to a hospital in a small, nearby mountain town. Mom had a few cuts from some broken window glass but Jenna was sleeping in the back seat covered with a blanket, so she was protected from all the flying glass. Laurie was shaken up and sore from being nearly strangled by the seat belt which did its job beautifully.

After everyone was released by the hospital the Highway Patrol again transported them to a rental car agency where they said their goodbyes to the officer. Within about 4 hours following the accident they cleaned out the van; the towing company pried open the doors so they could get their luggage and personal belongings out, loaded up the rental car and were back on the road to spend the night in Nashville. They arrived much later in the day than they planned, far more nervous than they were when they started out, but relatively unharmed after a horrific accident.

Laurie was a trouper, nervous, but knowing she had an obligation to get mom and Jenna back home, (safely from this point) so she swallowed and pushed through her fear. They got back to Camdenton about 12 hours later the next day.

God doesn’t protect us from everything bad that happens in our life,

but this could have ended way worse if His timing hadn’t been perfect.

God doesn't work in luck or coincidences.

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