Contrary to what some might think, news events can touch journalists in a personal way. News coverage can even bring back memories of events that helped shape our own character.
That was the case with me this week when I saw our coverage of the rollover accident that injured three Farmington firefighters participating in a training exercise along the Farmington-Centerville border.
The incident happened near where I also survived a rollover.
In 1991 I was driving on Skyline Drive above Farmington in a four-wheel-drive Toyota pickup. With me in the cab were my 13-year-old niece and 2-year-old daughter. I decided to take a side road to get to a vantage point for a better view of the Great Salt Lake.
While driving the side road back toward Skyline Drive, I suddenly encountered a dirt-bike rider going the other way and instinctively swerved to avoid a collision on the narrow road. The outside wheels slipped off the roadway, and I quickly brought the vehicle to a stop. I got my niece and daughter out of the truck and surveyed the situation. I can still remember what I told the teenage dirt bike rider, who had kindly stopped to help out: “I think I can get this back on the road.”
They were almost my last words.
I got in the tilting truck cab with the idea that I would back the truck onto the road with the engine pointing down the steep slope. Toyota trucks, although well-built, have narrow wheel bases and can easily roll.
I fastened my seat belt, but put the shoulder strap under my arm, so I could more easily look back as I tried to back up the vehicle. No sooner had I gunned the engine slightly, then the truck rolled.
It went over, and over and over again.
The rubbery oak brush on the hill easily bent under the weight of the truck, doing little to slow it down as it rolled down the slope.
Fortunately, I reached out and grabbed hold of my daughter’s child restraint seat as the truck went over and hung on for dear life, flat against the cabin seat.
I remember seeing a spinning image through the windshield of trees ... blue sky ... trees ... blue sky ... trees ... blue sky. I noticed the top of the cab getting closer with each revolution as it was being crushed by the weight of the truck.
Luckily, the seat belt kept me from being thrown.
When the truck finally came to a stop, after what seemed like an eternity, I quickly undid the seat belt, and immediately fell head first into the windshield.
Completely disoriented, I failed to realize I was upside down.
I crawled out the window and was greeted by the panicky 15-year-old dirt-bike rider, who had raced down the hill after the rolling truck.
I checked myself and realized I was unscathed except for a bump on my head.
Later, it took two tow trucks to get the truck out. A Davis County Sheriff’s deputy estimated I rolled at least eight times.
Twenty years later, I can reflect back on how lucky I was. Time allows for a better understanding of how events do, or don’t, alter a life.
My niece is preparing to give birth to her first child, while my daughter is getting ready to graduate from college.
It was a poor decision to try to back the truck back onto the road. Still, I’m glad I showed at least some common sense in getting the girls out of the truck first.
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or email@example.com.