Several years ago, while in Ottawa Andrea and I were visiting our friend Wendy and were walking back to her home after grabbing some food at a restaurant on Bank St (it’s a busy street in Ottawa, 4 lanes, inner city with lots of traffic). While we were walking up the street, I could see that a man was very close to being hit by a car.
I said to Andrea something along the lines of “that guy is about to be hit by that car”, and sure enough within a few seconds, he was. The traffic pattern was odd at the time. There are four lanes of traffic on the street, and three of the lanes had stopped moving. The man was still chatting with his friends on one side of the road while simultaneously walking through the stopped traffic without looking where he was going.
I’m assuming he thought all 4 lanes of traffic were stopped but they weren’t and he wasn’t paying attention to the direction in which he was walking. The fourth lane was clear, there were no cars parked on the side of the road or anything, and a vehicle was driving up the lane. The speed limit is 50km/hr, and it looked like the car was doing around the speed limit at the time.
We later found out that the gentleman driving the car was just driving on his way to work…
Then the man crossing the street stepped into the 4th lane of traffic, the lane that was clear at the time but had traffic coming down it. A second later, surprised by a man suddenly walking into his lane of traffic the driver slams on his breaks for a millisecond but there was no hope.
The man was hit and thrown quite far into the air and struck his head when he came down. It appeared he was thrown at least 10ft. You can read a short bit about it here. (We remained after and gave our police report etc. and have been contacted several times in this case.)
We saw this man hit by a car and thrown into the air and I instantly started running towards the scene. I think we were about 100m away and it was slightly uphill, and I vaguely remember starting to move in the direction before it even happened, it was so obvious it was coming.
When I finally got there, it was clear the gentleman was in bad shape. I’d never seen anything like it before, he had a large laceration on his head that was deep, and fluid was coming out, and it wasn’t just blood. It was like I was looking at his skull, but I’m not sure. It was more than I was hoping for on our walk back from the restaurant…
When I arrived there, no one was helping yet. Andrea arrived within seconds of me, and we started performing first-aid and then finally his friends came over from across the street and started yelling at me, in a language I didn’t understand (I think it was Arabic). There was a considerable language barrier, but I could tell they didn’t want me touching or helping him. It was a bizarre situation to be in.
I was trying to assure the man on the ground that he was ok, he was an older gentleman, and I was trying not to seem as panicked as I felt. His friends just stood there and watched yelling at me until I finally convinced them that I was helping and that it was clear he needed the help.
I wanted to be like “Your friend's brain is leaking here on the ground in front of us, and you don’t want me to help?” but I calmly relayed to them that he’d be fine we just need to help him until additional help arrived. (Likely wasn’t his brain leaking out but it’s how I felt at the time.)
I asked them to translate for me and tell him that he was ok and that we were helping. I feel like there was a reason they didn’t want me to help him, I didn’t know what the reason was, but I didn’t care either.
I was trying to assess what was wrong, stabilise his head while keeping pressure on the wound which was leaking fluid along with blood… I sent Andrea to go get something clean that we could put against the wound to apply pressure. I was hoping for something that wasn’t dirty, something other than my hand and shirt…
She ran into what I remember being a spa or a salon and came back with towels which I thought was better than nothing.
In the meantime, spectators gathered, and nobody else was helping. I was asking if anyone could help but no one could or would…I’m not sure what the reason was.
Finally, a lady ran over, she had some sort of medical training, I remember her being dressed in pink athletic gear and not much more. I suspect she was a nurse. She took over making sure his head was his only injury and looking into what else might be wrong. I was trying to stop his head from moving while at the same time not allowing more fluid from his head to escape.
I would talk to his friends, and ask them to speak to him. I was looking into his eyes, and he seemed to be fading… he was holding my hand and squeezing it, and I was like "fuck this guy is going to die right here."
It felt like 2 minutes went by and an ambulance showed up, and we handed him off to the paramedics, and they whisked him away, and within what felt like 5 minutes there was no evidence of the accident…outside of some fluid from his head on the street and the poor driver of the car who was in shock talking to the police.
Here he was just driving to work in the morning and all of a sudden, a man appears from between stopped traffic not near a crosswalk, unexpectedly into his lane.
What surprised me from the whole event was how no one would help. At least 15-20 people were surrounding us and only Andrea, and I were trying to help the man. His friends were there too, but they weren’t doing anything, maybe they didn’t know what to do… but at least with some direction, they were able to help me reassure him that he would be ok. One thing was for sure was that I didn’t think he was going to be ok at all…
Beyond feeling obligated to help this man who we didn’t know, I had just left the military where a lot of my final days were spent as a first-aid and combat first-aid instructor and I felt like those skills could be of use.
But as he was laying there in the middle of the street and onlookers gathered I asked for someone to help and no one would… They were close too, within several feet looking over us doing first aid…
What were they thinking?
Why wouldn’t you help? I was mentally affected by the event for a couple weeks after and in the short time I spent a lot of time continually googling to see if the guy made it. I think when you experience something like this accident unexpectedly, it leads to some additional stress that you don’t foresee coming. We were walking down the street enjoying our vacation and then an almost immediate change to having a stranger’s head in your hands with blood pouring out…
Finally, 5 days after the accident I found a news report saying he lived and that he had a head injury and sprained ankle but that was all. It was pretty obvious the reporter didn't see the man as I doubt he would have mentioned his ankle...
When I look back, it’s interesting to observe people’s reactions during that event. I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t help, yet I stood there looking at others who wouldn’t, even when asked, basically frozen like deer in the headlights...
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