The aftermath of an accident

The reports of motor vehicle crashes in Washington D.C. metro newspapers and TV news reports tend to be straightforward and brief. Readers rarely learn much more than the age, gender and hometown of those who were injured or killed.

A recent article in EHS Today takes a more personal approach. The author dives into the details and emotions of a fatal tractor-trailer crash that tore a family apart.

Eyes can see pain

The story is told through the eyes of Ed Slattery, a father and husband who lost so much in the violent crash. A trucker driving on three hours of sleep dozed off behind the wheel of his big rig and slammed into the small car carrying Slattery’s wife and two sons.

While Slattery lost so very much that day, other losses were even greater: his wife lost her life and his 12-year-old son, Matthew, lost his ability to walk and much of his ability to speak.

Though his 16-year-old son, Peter, suffered serious injuries in the interstate wreck, he had a “quite miraculous” recovery from his injuries and has grown into a healthy young man.

His wife, Susan, was driving the family’s car at the time and was killed when the triple-load tractor-trailer slammed into the car on a Monday morning 10 years ago.

A series of calls

Slattery remembers that he spoke on the phone with his wife that morning as she was embarking with the boys on the drive home from visiting her parents. A short while later he received two more calls: the first was to tell him that his boys were hospitalized with serious injuries; the second call was from the coroner to tell him that his wife had died.

Slattery remembers that he then had to call Susan’s parents to them that their daughter was dead.

Permanent changes

At age 12, Matthew was a voracious reader like his mother, and a physically active Boy Scout who looked up to his older brother.  A decade later, he is confined for life to a wheelchair, struggling to speak.

“The hardest part for me really is that he can’t talk to me,” his father said. “He can’t communicate what it is that he wants. So, a lot of times he’ll say, ‘Can I have…’ and then he can’t find the noun for what it is that he wants.”

The story of Ed Slattery and his family helps us understand that the pain and suffering from an 18-wheeler crash can be much deeper and longer-lasting than a brief news report can ever convey.