Respondents from the Kenai Fire Department and Central Emergency Services work to free Donna Swaby from her car after an accident at Mile 6 of the Kenai Spur Highway on Friday.
Photo courtesy of Dave LaForest,
A 43-year-old Kenai woman suffered serious injuries Friday after a rear-end accident on the Kenai Spur Highway pushed her car into oncoming traffic where it was smashed by a semi truck.
“I saw the woman in the back had metal wrapped around her and I thought she was dead, and then she kind of lifted her head and said ‘Help me, please help me,’” said Ben Matheny, a driver who did not witness the accident, but pulled up shortly after and watched over the accident's victim until emergency responders arrived.
Donna Swaby, 43, of Kenai was seat belted into the car’s driver’s seat when the accident occurred, but when Kenai Fire Department emergency responders arrived at the scene, they found her in the back of the car on the passenger’s side.
“There was enough force from the semi and enough intrusion into the car that it basically pushed her into the back seat,” said Fire Chief Mike Tilly.
Although Swaby suffered critical injuries in the accident, her shift to the rear of the vehicle worked in her favor, emergency responders said.
“There were very few spaces in that vehicle that were survivable and she was in one of them,” Tilly said.
The accident occurred early Friday afternoon near Mile 6 of the highway when Swaby, who was driving a 1991 Geo Prism, stopped to make a left-hand turn and was rear-ended by a 1996 Ford Aerostar van driven by Amy Clark, 61, of Kenai, said Sgt. Gus Sandahl of the Kenai Police Department.
The impact of Clark’s van sent Swaby’s car into oncoming traffic, where Swaby’s car was struck by a semi truck driven by Jimmie Gibson, age unknown, and owned by Weaver Bros. Inc., in Kenai.
Matheny said that when he pulled up, damage to the van and the semi truck appeared minimal, but Swaby’s car was in rough shape.
“Most of the damage went to that little red car,” he said. “From what I could tell, it looked like the semi might of hit her and then the back tires might have gone over the front of the car when it spun it around. It was terrible. Just talking about it sends chills up my back.”
The impact of the semi severely crushed Swaby’s car, trapping her inside and requiring an elaborate extrication to remove her, Tilly said.
Despite having to remove the car’s roof and several doors, however, Kenai firefighters managed to remove Swaby in a timely manner.
“I have to give my guys a pat on the back,” Tilly said. “From the time they got on scene to the time they extricated her, secured her to a backboard, evaluated her, got her in the ambulance and got her to the hospital was 19 minutes.”
Swaby was in a lot of pain but remained conscious when firefighters removed her from the crushed remains of her car, said James Baisden, Kenai assistant fire chief.
After the Kenai Fire Department took Swaby to the Central Peninsula General Hospital, she was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.
Tilly said the last he heard Swaby was still being treated and remained on a ventilator.
Gibson, Clark and the three children passengers in the van did not suffer serious injuries and were not taken to the hospital.
In addition to the Kenai Fire Department, Kenai police and Central Emergency Services also responded to the accident.
Patrice Kohl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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