Smoke Without Fire
Dave has always enjoyed travelling by car. He sits in the boot looking out the back window for mile after mile. Fascinated I am sure by the people who pull faces, smile and wave at him. He loves traffic jams as that means lots of people to look at; all sat in tin boxes with windows.
Even at night he watches with fascination the approaching headlights, white balls of intense light that fade away as quickly as they appeared.
One bright sunny lunchtime in Devon a dramatic turn of events almost ended both our lives.
It would take 2 hours to drive to Wiltshire from my house, the occasion was a date with a female friend. I gave Dave a good brush that morning so that he would look his best. Shiny coat and bright sparkling eyes, the model border collie.
I walked to my car parked on the driveway and Dave as always was one step ahead of me standing patiently by the rear bumper waiting for me to open the tailgate.
With his tail wagging gently he knew he was off on another adventure with “Dad” that always involved fun.
Such was the bond now between Dave and myself, no matter where I went in the car, more often than not Dave would be in the boot enjoying the sights and sounds. This trip was no different. Dave was very much part of the reason for the journey.
The weather was dry and sunny, I was looking forward to an afternoon walking Dave somewhere different and with a new person to make a fuss of him. After all if there is one thing in life that Dave adores it’s having fuss made of HIM.
There was plenty of time for the journey, 2 hours on good roads and Dave has always been happy on trips of that duration. We set off, Dave took up his normal position in the boot of the car with his safety harness on and watched the traffic as always out the back.
I had driven about 10 miles from home, the road was a wide dual carriageway, the A38 for those that know Devon’s limited road network. Minding my own business in the inside lane, with the cruise control set at 70mph Dave and I listened to the radio.
A BMW car came past my driver’s window, in the outside lane and then swerved sharply into the same lane as my car. The BMW then performed an emergency stop. What followed next appeared at the time to happen in slow motion.
I can remember every single thing about the accident in frame by frame photographic flashback.
I immediately braked at full force, as my entire forward vision was now terrifyingly filled by a very large BMW car, no more than 18 inches ahead of me and rapidly slowing down. My car at the time was a Ford Fiesta, 2009 reg and in wonderful condition. Dave liked it I am sure.
My car struck the rear right hand side of the BMW and this caused my vehicle to spin out of control. Given the sudden appearance of the BMW I expect I was still travelling at 50-60 mph at point of impact!
Bang went the sound of all the airbags firing and inflating in my car. Not actually a very frightening sound as it happened so quickly, I barely had time to register they had inflated.
I remember seeing the central reservation armco safety barrier alongside my car and thinking, let’s hope I don’t hit that. I then recall looking out the front windscreen and seeing all the approaching traffic; I was obviously now travelling at speed backwards during the spin.
Next to fill my vision were trees, large and looming by the side of road. By good luck so far I had struck nothing but the other vehicle, now I had to deal with the trees. Well I was dealing with them by keeping my foot hard down on the brake pedal.
I felt the car bounce as it struck a kerbstone that marked the edge of a small layby and the adjacent pavement and cycle path. Unbeknown to myself my car had spun from inside lane to outside lane and then travelled backwards at speed into a layby that just happened to be located at exactly the spot of the accident.
After what seemed a few minutes but was quite literally just seconds my car came to a fairly abrupt halt. The looming trees had seen to it that I wasn’t going to travel any further that day. I had come to rest with the back of my car hard up against the trees, one wheel had been completely ripped off by the layby kerbstone. The other wheel on the same side was rapidly deflating due to a section of missing alloy wheel.
Once assured that I was no longer in a violently moving vehicle I calmly turned off the ignition and checked myself for any cuts and bruises. Nothing, not one part of my body had struck any part of the car. Well done airbags and seat belt tensioners that day.
I opened my door and stepped from the badly damaged vehicle. I closed the door behind me and spoke for a few seconds to a rather shocked passing motorist who had pulled over to assist.
It was then, after about 4 or 5 words spoken that I suddenly remembered DAVE! He was still in the boot of the car, which was firmly wedged into the trees. Oh my goodness I had in my state of pseudo-calmness forgotten about my poor dog!
I quickly opened the driver’s door again and was greeted by an escaping cloud of acrid smoke from the airbag deployment explosives. Dave paced anxiously as much as space allowed and looked very frightened in the boot of the car.
Huge branches firmly pressed up against the rear window glass. I grabbed his lead and leant over the rear seats and swapped it for his car travel harness.
Due to those rather huge trees opening the tailgate of the car was an impossibility and due to the missing wheel and brake assembly moving the car forward under its own power was also not happening.
I folded the rear seats down and beckoned Dave towards me, gently pulling on his lead to encourage him to clamber over the folded down seats. Being such a good dog, Dave had never climbed into or out of the boot in any way other than via the tailgate.
It took a couple of seconds before Dave understood that I was leading him to safety, the interior of the car smelt very strongly of smoke and Dave’s animal instinct told him that moving towards the source of the smoke was not good.
Once outside of the car and safely away from the edge of the layby I gave him a quick check for any injuries before giving him a huge reassuring cuddle. I then walked Dave to safety, gave him some water in a bowl and secured his lead to a fence post.
By great coincidence one of my friends drove by the scene of the accident some 5 minutes afterwards and spotted myself and Dave at the roadside. They very kindly returned a few moments later and offered to take Dave to their home whilst I sorted out the police, witnesses and recovery of my rather sad looking written off Fiesta.
My car and myself were delivered back to Plymouth by recovery truck and Dave returned an hour later after that, having been spoiled rotten by my friend and her wonderful family.
My written off car sat on my driveway for a few days whilst the insurers did their thing. Dave on our morning walk would take a huge detour around the car in the driveway. I assumed that he could still smell the smoke from the airbags, imprinted on the interior fabric of the car by now.
He wouldn’t go anywhere near the car, not even to wee up a remaining wheel in protest.
I picked up my replacement vehicle a week later by which time the damaged car had been removed from my driveway. I opened the tailgate of my new car, a different make and model and said to Dave “Up you go,” half expecting to now have a dog that was terrified of getting into cars.
Without hesitation my brave dog jumped into the boot and awaited our next adventure somewhere along the highways of South West England.
Dave and myself suffered absolutely no injuries whatsoever. I never did make the date with the female friend but at least my seemingly bizarre excuse was genuine.