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 and...as 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.
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.
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.
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.
The boys and I put a memorial photo and note on the
barbedwire fence right next to the location of the accident.
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
The next photos are of her
demolished and burned out Camry. First, a brief explanation of this point of the
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.
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
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.
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.