Earbuds By Joseph DelMaestro

They said she lost control of her vehicle, they also said she was ejected from it. But that’s not what I saw. What I saw was the most spectacular accident I’ve ever witnessed in my nearly two million driving miles. It could never be duplicated.

 

April Arcuri was a twenty-one year old vibrant girl, from Baldwin, NY, who lived an exciting and adventurous life and was always ready to help a friend.  On December 29, 2006, close to midday, she met her fate as the Ford Ranger pickup truck she was driving went airborne and crashed into a tree. She was driving sensibly, and she was alert as she passed me. Her earbuds on– a smile on her face and at peace. April was transporting the truck for a friend to Shelter Island.

 

She had recently graduated from New York University with a double major in history and psychology and was planning to attend graduate school.  From her early childhood she had a passion for life and learning. She was a true adventurist. If she wasn’t racing cars, she was playing the drums and writing songs with her rock band, MURR.

 

We were in the passing lane traveling east on Sunrise Highway.  I was the second car behind her. At mile-marker 1523, just before the Peconic overpass, the rear of the pickup truck suddenly lifted off the road in a violent counter-clockwise direction, rolling over several times, snapping the passenger rear wheel cleanly off, and impacting a tree in the center median.  When the vehicle finally came to a halt, it was upside-down on the opposite side of the tree facing east. The tree prevented her from hurdling into the westbound traffic lane.

 

Except for a few brief seconds while I pulled off the highway to call 911, I witnessed the whole incident. In a state of panic, I rushed across the road to offer aid, but found myself helpless and unable to assist her. I was awestruck by the scene. April was still strapped in her seat belt hanging upside down. She was unconscious having been knocked out before she could figure out what had happened. She undoubtedly never felt any pain. There was a deep impression on the side of the vehicle where it struck the tree in the exact location where the driver sat; if the impact had been one foot forward or backward she probably would have lived. I stood there helpless while others stopped and looked on. It seemed like forever before emergency help arrived.  When the police finally showed up, there didn’t seem to be any sense of urgency as if an accident of this nature was an everyday event. I was fuming. It was impossible for anyone of us at the scene to help her. I tried communicating to her telepathically and begged her to hold on. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could have lasted as long as she did.

 

The Southampton Fire Department finally arrived, and firefighters worked diligently on rescuing April from the twisted wreck using a pneumatic steel cutter, called the Jaws of Life, to cut through chunks of the red truck.  A medevac helicopter, outfitted with extensive medical equipment, settled down in the eastbound lane. The pilots, with some semblance of emergency, rushed over to assist.  After some chatter with medics on the scene, someone made the decision not to transport her and instead took her to Southampton Hospital first and then to Stony Brook.

 

For some instinctive reason, and partly because I am somewhat of a motor-head with a curious nature, I walked around the truck looking for clues as to how this could have happened. The passenger rear wheel had snapped off completely from the impact of flipping over. There was no sign of wear on the rear axle or the axle bearing, so I ruled out the loss of a wheel as the culprit. I looked at the skid-marks and tried to piece everything together.  As I walked around to the other side of the inverted truck while the emergency crew worked on freeing her, I saw it. It was as clear as day. I knew what caused the truck to suddenly spurt wings and flip counter-clockwise. It was a heavy-duty tow strap about two inches wide, red in color, that somehow got loose from the bed or maybe fell through a worn-out hole somewhere. It somehow got caught between the leaf-spring supports and caught the driveshaft. As it wrapped itself around the driveshaft, it tightened from the friction and dispelled the force of a4000 poundvehicle traveling at60 mphairborne. Imagine a freight-train making an abrupt stop at high speed. It can’t; the force had to be dissipated somewhere.  It’s the only explanation that makes sense. Trucks don’t fly.

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