Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A butterfly flaps it's wings

Nic and I killed a man on Saturday.

Having missed the junction we were supposed to have got out of the taxi at, we informed the driver that he needed to turn round and go back. Had it not just started throwing it down we probably would have stopped there, got out and walked back. As it was he did a three point turn on Trinity Road, drove back and stopped in a bus stop just before the junction of Bellevue Road.

A few seconds later a scooter swerved to avoid the car behind our taxi, which in turn was attempting to navigate around us to make the green light. The swerve resulted in the scooter driving in the opposite lane and BANG... one knew what had happened. Of the first people we saw, not one had seemed to see anything. All those people who'd ground to a halt and got out of their cars and not a clue between them.

All we saw was a bike next to where the taxi had been, a leather glove and a car bumper. No rider, no screaming. Silence.

Of course there was no silence. It was in fact defeaningly loud, but it may as well have been silent. The rider had disappeared.

Everyone's automatic assumption was that he'd got up and walked away. So which one was he? Of all the people milling about which looked the most shaken. Why wasn't anyone looking after him? There was a 20ish year old Eastern European looking girl with a rucksack. Nope. A middle aged couple with a dog. Nope. A fat afghan looking fella. Nope. A few skaters. Nope. A tall arab looking chap.

Suddenly a panicked scream.

'I know it's not my fault, but I don't want someone to be dead'.

The young woman who had been trying to drive around us in her little Polo was in pieces. She was being comforted by a tall, young man who must have been one of the car drivers. Maybe he knew where the rider was.

And then violently, everything slowed from warp speed to clear measured focus.

There was a flurry of activity further back up the road, civilians, urgently flitting around, calling 999. 'Shit 999. Why the hell haven't I dialled 999?'

Then to no one in particular I asked 'Where's the rider?'. None of this made any sense. It couldn't have been any of this lot in front of us, so where was he (I presumed it was a he).

A man who we previously hadn't noticed suddenly piped, 'Up there mate, under that car'.

Nic and I stopped looking at the scooter in front of us and slowly turned our attention back down the road, to the resting place of a green Vauxhall, which had come to a skidding halt. All air bags deployed.

This poor unfortunate wretch, who minutes earlier had been driving along happily, had been confronted with a scooter appearing out of the rainy dusk. In the wrong lane. He'd hit him head on and dragged the rider's body another 60 to 70 metres up the road under the car .

'You're joking?'

'He's still breathing apparently'


'I know'

Nic dissolved next to me and was gabbling 'We shouldn't have told him to stop here. We shouldn't even have been here. We should have been over there' pointing to the opposite side of the junction, where we'd asked the driver to stop originally. 'If we'd said it a bit louder, we would have stopped over there'

All I could think was that we should have told the taxi driver to stop and wait.

One thing I should mention at this point is that the taxi we'd been in had scarpered.

This is how we had come to actually be standing at the incident:

'How much is that mate?'

'Er, call it a tenner'

'There you go'

'I haven't got any change'

'Have you got two tens for a twenty Nic'

'No, I haven't got anything on me'


I'd been leaning through the centre of the car from the back seat negotiating with this guy. Nic was sat next to me leaning forward craning to hear what I was saying. The driver of the taxi on hearing the crash, had quick as a flash, put the car in gear and pulled away, back across the lights.

The next moments are a little bit blurred, but reveal some things that surprised me, but have taught me a lot. Not only, how bad I can be in a crisis, but also how deeply my British reserve runs.

'Listen just call me to drive you back'

'Are we going to go back?'

'It was a motorcyclist, it was his fault'


'Look he was driving up the centre it's his fault'


'Listen I'm just saying it's not my deal, he was in the wrong place'


I'm not sure we were screaming at each other for long, although it did seem an eternity. The next thing I did is fairly inexplicable. I ran in to the restaurant where my friends were sat at the bar and asked if anyone had two tens for a twenty. No 'hellos'. No 'how are you's'. Nope, just an explanation that I'd had an argument with a cabbie. No explanation that the cabbie may have been involved in the accident that they'd heard and were now craning to see from inside the restaurant 250 yards away. No as far as they were concerned I was just maniacally asking them to break a twenty.

Al handed me two tenners. I ran out handed one of them to the cabbie and then Nic and I started to sprint towards the accident.

At no point, did either Nic or I attempt to:

a) Stop the cabbie from driving away from the scene
b) Ask for his name
c) Note his registration
d) Even note what car it was that we'd been driving in.

In short, we were pretty much the worst witnesses the police could have asked for. 30 minutes later a policewoman took our details in case they needed more witnesses. They've yet to call us.

Our dinner appointment started 45 minutes late. We had a lovely night, after a bit of a quiet start. Too much wine. Very nice Italian food. Finished the night with Capirinha's. Lovely.

The scooter rider lost his fight for life in hospital 3 hours later. He never made his appointment and his family probably had one of the worst night's of their lives.

Both Nic and I feel irreversibly guilty. If only we hadn't suggested Bel Amici's. If only Nic had dried her hair 10 minutes earlier. If only it hadn't started to rain and we hadn't done the three point turn. If only, if only, if only...

We know it's fate. We know the scooter was basically 100% wrong. Whichever way you look at it, he shouldn't have been where he was. We know all that. Doesn't make a difference though.


Gavin Corder said...

Oh shit! We don't come face to face with death much do we? It's scary when we do. It reminds you of the tiny thread our lives all hang by....

Paul said...

I hate those 'what if' moments in life that make your skin crawl.

Span Ows said...

Six, I just posted that you should really give us your opinion on my postie/DMA I'll forgive you if you don't! :-/

There's no point in feeling guilty, and there's no point in me telling you not to feel guilty - I don't understand the bit about the scooter shouldn't have been there...why not, wasn't it just going around 'parked' cars?

I'll read it again to see if I missed something. Also, I don't think I've ver been in or near a car without noticing what make it was, that's no disrespect to you it's just how I am...

Span Ows said...

P.S. You didn't kill anyone! You were not in control of any of the 4 vehicles involved; you didn't make it rain etc...

Curmy said...

Oh dear Six, I'm so sorry, it must have been a terrible shock, and the poor scooter driver.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Crispin.

Not going to help me saying it's not your fault - but it's not your fault. You didn't do anything to cause the accident and there was nothing you could do to stop the taxi. The car behind can't have seen the scooter (I know I used to ride a bike and frankly they're invisible) and the scooter would have trusted in luck and nimbleness to get past (like I said I know - anyone who rides a bie knows that we push it sometimes and forget our vulnerability). Demanding the divers name and number would probably have resulted in him driving off so at best you'd have got off the fare. Fucking shit thing to happen - but it is all chance. Poor bugger - no-one deserves to go like that, just randomly.

Hope you and Nic are getting past it as best you can.

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

Six, you've read my blog about the little boy who was knocked down and killed before my eyes, so all I can say is that the guilt does lessen over time, the what ifs do decrease too because common sense kicks in eventually and you see that there is nothing you could have done any differently that would have made the slightest difference. Awful but true.

My heart is with you and Nic. You feel the loss as your own. It isn't but you hurt all the same. It will get better, I promise.


Les Paul Junior said...

Hi Six,

Really sorry to hear about this awful accident. Having read other peoples' comments I'm not sure what I can add. However, I must say I don't think you and Nic are to blame although I know from experience that it's easy to be hard on one's self in situations like this.

Be assured that there are a number of people thinking of you and Nic at this time.

Gavin Corder said...

Cheer up Crispers old chap! It's not your fault!

Sorry to tar you with the junk ,ail brush... 'twas in jest...Honest.

Just goes to show how fragile our hopes and aims; vanities and pretensions are.... Either that or I'm an insensitive twat....

The Great Gildersleeve said...

Yes, I can only give my heart felt thoughts and concerns like everyone else. I cannot begin to imagine the feelings and horror experienced, from what you say, and easy for me to say but I would say that you can hold yourself guilty or responsible for this tragedy.

There are so many variable and it always boils down to that little word with big implications "If"

I well remember Mag's recounting the horror of the little boy or died and I think another person at another time outside of a venue.

You are both in my thoughts...

Lucy said...

You mention Groundhog day in your favorite films list. The old guy in that film died, whatever Bill did. Ok the 'destiny' explaination may be a bit corny but sometimes it is the only answer.
Thinking of you both.

Span said...


Six Years Late said...

Thank you everyone. We do know it's not our fault and the guilt isn't really there any more. All felt a bit raw when it happened. We've been away for a few days and we've come back to a couple of messages from the collision investigation team, so obviously they're interested in what happened.

I'll keep you posted

Anonymous said...

you and the mrs play it cool mr six.