all of my travel experience and road running across the state of Texas,
I have seen a multitude of car wrecks. But, the worst traffic accident I ever
saw in my entire life was encountered on US Highway 59, about 45 miles north of
Houston. The worst I ever saw, by far!
No exceptions! Period!
It was a late afternoon in the summer of 1957.
I was just a farm-fresh teenaged high school grad out of northeast
Texas, filled with wonderlust and headed to Houston,
250 miles away, to seek employment.
A seemingly minor infraction of a
traffic law had caused an extremely irreversible catastrophe to occur.
cars traveling in opposite directions, on (at that time) the two-lane roadway,
had collided in the southbound lane of US 59. I didn't see the wreck occur, but
I was obviously the first person to arrive upon the scene. Both vehicles were
all wheels up (up-side-down) and lying on the southbound (west side) road-shoulder.
parked nearby and quickly ran up to the wreckage to see what had happened. The
wheels were still spinning and dust was flying everywhere. Sounds and smells of
gurgling fluids, like oil, gasoline and steaming radiators, filled the air. There
were no signs of life within either vehicle; dead silence! No movement at all
and besides a radio still playing, it was a horrible, horrible, unforgetable dead
There were smells like I have seldom encountered since, but will
never forget. Soon I observed, to my great shock, five adults bodies lay dead
in those vehicles. Even in those days before seat belts, all five fatalities were
still inside the vehicles, unejected. I quickly determined there was nothing I
could do to help any of them. They had already entered eternaity.
suddenly, above all the other highway noises, I and another passerby heard the
faint sound of a baby crying. Now, that sign of life was exciting and really got
our attention. We frantically searched for the baby, looking all around, inside
the vehicles, everywhere and all about the area. Soon we found the little fellow
only a few yards away, where he had been thrown clear of the wrecked vehicles.
He was lying on his back in a couple of inches of water in tall weeds along the
highway ditch. Screaming at the top of his lungs, it had been very difficult to
hear him above all the other noises.
Hurrying to the ditch, I quickly
picked the baby up from the water and weeds. By then, other bystanders and I tried
to comfort and console the precious little thing. He was the only sign of life
from this awful. awful tragedy. Although, way too young to know it then, he was
now all alone in this big world.
loudly and not showing any significant signs of serious injury, the baby was seriously
traumatized. He soon responded to our attention, care and touch, then settled
down to only a whimper.
Soon, happily I could hear the distant sound of
an ambulance siren coming up Highway 59, northbound from Humble.
Quickly the emergency crews arrived. As soon as I could, I turned the infant over
to EMT care and capable hands. Several wrecker trucks, highway patrolmen and more
ambulances began to arrive. Among all the clutter, rush and excitement, I managed
to ease away and went back to my car. Leaving, I drove around the wreckage and
continued my journey to Houston, where
I later began my search for employment. Within a week I found a job at General
The next morning in Houston, I picked
up a copy of the Houston Chronicle, with headlines that read, "Five Adults Die
in Car Wreck: Baby Survives."
Good or bad, I was there and I'm glad I
was. I hoped then and still hope today that I helped out in some small way.
terrible accidents don't have to happen. Careless drivers often can't realize
their seriousness until they are involved in one. Please drive sanely and safely,
always. Life is fragile and precious.
© Nolan Maxie
March 1, 2010 Column