The call was traumatic; the words yelled over the phone by his wife — “I’m trapped in a burning vehicle” — almost too horrible to comprehend. But Norman Smith recalled them Monday afternoon in vivid detail, thankful three days later that what at first seemed like a horrid accident with tragic results ended far better than he had first imagined.
His wife, Toni Smith, and his 11-year-old son were involved in a two-vehicle collision at Kitty Fork Road and U.S. 421 late Friday night, but the first-thought fire was actually dust from the deployed air bags that injured his son, though not critically. Both were freed from the vehicle quickly by rescue personnel, and while his wife has serious injuries, Smith is thankful that both are alive.
And, what’s more, he holds no hard feelings against the driver of the other vehicle, who has been charged with fleeing the scene of the accident and driving while impaired.
“I’m not angry. I’m just thankful there was no loss of life on either side,” Smith said during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “An accident is not an intentional act so I don’t have any ill will.”
But at the same time, Smith points to the wreck and the mangled cars he saw when he arrived at the accident scene as a clear example of why it’s so important that people who are impaired in any way avoid getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
“I’m absolutely against driving after drinking or driving with any impairment. This is what can happen. Again, I’m not angry at the other driver. She didn’t seek out my family to plow into and hurt. But it is a good example of what can happen, how selfish acts can impact so many people, most who have absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand.”
The accident happened Friday night at when a 2001 Honda being driven by Lesley Allison Thornton, 27, of Brewington Road, failed to stop at the stop sign on Kitty Fork Road and was T-boned by Toni Smith’s 1999 BMW.
According to Highway Patrol Trooper GM White, Smith was traveling southbound on U.S. 421 when Thornton came onto the highway. Thornton’s car, the trooper said, went off the road and into a ditch. Smith’s vehicle spun around and landed facing northbound on the shoulder of U.S. 421.
White said Thornton was initially being treated by EMS workers but decided to take off running into the woods before officers arrived on the scene.
She was located the next day, he said, when she turned up at Sampson Regional Medical Center for treatment of her injuries.
Thornton has been charged with felony hit and run, driving while impaired and a stop sign violation.
She was treated and released from the hospital Saturday, according to White.
Smith’s son, he said, got glass in his eyes and received bruises from both the seat belt and the air bag.
His wife, however, was more seriously injured and, in fact, was on the way to Cape Fear Regional Hospital Monday afternoon for additional exams.
“We thought at first she just had a broken wrist and ankle, but now we know it was more serious. She has three broken bones in her left hand, her left wrist is broken, her left foot, and I’m taking her this afternoon to see if her hip is broken, along with her right foot.”
His wife and son, he said, had been running some late errands Friday night when the accident happened.
“When she called me she was very frightened. She thought she was trapped in a burning car. That’s what she communicated to me when she called. It was a traumatic thing to hear. Thankfully, it turned out to just be dust from the air bag, but it still was a terrible few minutes.”
“Once I found out it wasn’t a fire, and she wasn’t trapped, things got instantly better for me. I went out to the scene. What I saw was bad, but I was just so thankful it wasn’t any worse than it was.”
Smith said when he learned the driver of the other vehicle had fled the scene, he posted an appeal on Facebook that she get the medical attention he thought she needed.
“I wanted her to get help and deal with her situation. I found we had some mutual Facebook friends, so I posted the plea.”
Smith reiterated that he held no hard feelings toward Thornton. “The charges, those she’ll have to deal with. I’ve got to deal with my family … it’s going to be hard on us logistically speaking for a while. I’m self-employed and I’ll have to fill all the roles until my wife is better, especially since we are a small family, with most of my relatives living in other states. But we will survive this. I’ve already seen a tremendous outpouring of support.”
Smith also offered tremendous thanks to the Highway Patrol, the Sampson Sheriff’s Department and the fire departments for what he called “an outstanding job.”
“You appreciate so much the service they provide, especially when you aren’t from a place like this where you are used to that kind of service. They were all wonderful and I cannot thank them enough.”