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Info About the Accident, plus some photos

One of the questions we hear the most is, "what happened?" or "how did it happen?"  These are questions we most certainly understand.  We have had so many ask, and know that there are yet more friends and family who are learning about her death and who want to know more about the accident, that we have decided to use the power of the Internet to help inform.  We do not desire to put undue emphasis on the accident.  We simply want to inform and, for some, help in accepting the fact that she's really gone from us now.

In Loving Memory of

Please note that the photos below of the burned and demolished car may be difficult for some to view.

Background info about the accident:

On Friday afternoon, June 18, 2004, Rachael had just completed several Internet communiques with her stepmother as part of Rachael's effort to surprise me for Father's Day weekend.  Her stepmom is a cancer survivor and once a year we get free tickets to go to a Tulsa Drillers baseball game from the hospital where she had her surgery done.  Looking forward to our date, I was a bit disappointed when Rach's stepmom called that afternoon to say that our date had to be cancelled but she couldn't tell me why.  I had the afternoon off from work and recall trying to lie down for a rare nap, but for some reason I had Rachael on my mind and it was not a spirit of peace, which was unusual. 

(We have not yet received the official accident report, but rely on the accounts of individuals involved, including the investigating state trooper.)

She left the campus sometime around 2:30 p.m.  She only went about 6 miles on a very tiny, two-lane road with no shoulder, when the accident occured.  This is a road she and I had driven together many times, before she had use of a car of her own beginning in February.  (We had to get her a car so she could get herself back up to Tulsa for the many doctor visits required after her December surgery it turned out...also for her May surgery follow-ups.  For me to go down and get her WAS possible on the occasional weekend, but not during the week, as required for the doctor visits, due to far too much time off of work for the 10-hour round-trip to get her and bring her up, then the 10-hour round-trip to take her back.)

Rachael was a very good driver.  She had passed "dad's own school of driver's ed" as well as the real driver's ed.  I even required her to learn how to drive a stickshift.  In travelling with her and my other children, I was always going over safety issues, to the point that my children regularly tease me about such terms as "margin of error" that they've heard time and time again.  And when she and I first took these little roads they call "farm to market" roads, on our first trip down there, I recall telling her that these roads are more dangerous due to having no shoulder.  We reviewed, more than once, how one should handle a car if the two wheels on the right side of the car were to go off the road.  The teacher in me would often quiz her about such issues.

Back to the accident...she was headed north on FM 1253 and one can see the tracks of what the investigating officer said were her two right wheels going about a foot or so off into the grass that is up against the road.  We certainly don't know for sure if she was dodging an animal...we don't know for sure if she had some sort of mechanical trouble or if she was distracted by something, but from all appearances, and for whatever reason, she seemed to have gone off the road for a short distance and, before the right front wheel came back onto the asphalt, it appears that she began to make a turn to the left, to the extent that the left front wheel began to leave a mark on the road from the friction of forward momentum with a turned wheel.  Then, it appears that the right front wheel came back onto the asphalt and, with the front wheels already turned to the left, the car then had both tires on the asphalt, at highway speed, and made a quick swerve to the left which left skid marks that appeared to be from both front tires being turned too much to the left with the existing forward momentum.  The result was an instantaneous move into the path of an oncoming pickup which was hauling some sort of trailer.  Not only was the pickup a larger vehicle, but he also had extra weight with the trailer.

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Rachael's big brother, Ed, walks in between the skidmarks apparently left by Rachael's car as it instantly swerved into the path of the oncoming pickup and trailer.

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I'm standing in the road with Rachael's brothers Ed and Alan as the three of us look over the point of impact, according to the man who drove the wrecker truck and retrieved Rachael's car.  Earlier, the driver had personally escorted us to the site and gave us what information he had, having been there soon after and while the investigation was being conducted.  That's Aunt Marsha on the left.  After the two vehicles collided, they were fused together and went to the side of the road, with Rachael's car actually going backwards after the head-on collision.  The driver said it took two wrecker trucks' two winches to literally pull the two vehicles apart.

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Here I am standing in the middle of the origin of the fire, where the two engines were crushed together.  The driver showed us how the fire was so hot, it literally melted the aluminum block of the Camry Rachael was driving.   About the only discernible engine part was the oil filter that I last put on her car when I changed her oil recently.


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The boys and I put a memorial photo and note on the barbedwire fence right next to the location of the accident.


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Though she was a very beautiful girl, the most beautiful part of her could not be seen by the human eye.  God, thank you for letting Rachael into our lives, even if only for 20 years.  Hers was a life lived for eternal purposes.


The next photos are of her demolished and burned out Camry.  First, a brief explanation of this point of the accident:

After the vehicles came to rest, the occupants of the vehicle that was traveling behind the pickup and witnessed the accident, came immediately to the aid of Rachael.  They said it was beyond obvious that she was killed instantly.  They then went to the pickup driver and saw that he was alive and pulled him from the wreckage.  As the witnesses looked up, right after pulling him from the pickup, a fire started and quickly consumed both vehicles.

We thank God that Rachael died instantly, before the fire, instead of being trapped in the car and burning to death.  By the time the fire started, she had already left this earth...she was already rejoicing with her Savior.   This father's anguish would have been far, far worse had I to live with the knowledge or the never-ending wonder of whether or not Rachael was still alive when the fire took over.  I know that she was gone before the fire.

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in succeeding photos, you may see a white sheet of some sort, and a water bottle and medical gloves, all of which appear to have been left behind by emergency crews


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It may be difficult to tell from this photo, but the entire dash and steering column was pushed back in Rachael's direction, and the frame of her driver's seat can be seen tilted to the left, partially outside the door opening.


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Emergency crews and others could not tell what type of car this was.  They found a partially burned book in her trunk that had some discernable scripture in it, thus they suspected she may be from the Honor Academy, nearby.  They then called the campus to see if they had someone from there who had recently left campus.  They couldn't tell what state the license plate was from, but could make out the stamped letters and numbers.  When we received the dreaded phone call no parent wants to ever receive...the call that OTHER parents were supposed to receive, not us...when we got that call, we were requested to read to him the license plate numbers/letters.  That was our final confirmation that it was our precious, beautiful, godly girl who perished in this horrible accident.


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