SURVIVAL: Helper couple recounts ordeal of being crushed under truck in bedroom
When Megan Clark and her fiance Ryan Smith went to bed early Thursday morning in Helper after a long day, nothing could have ever prepared them for what was to happen next.
A loud, thunderous crash. Blinding white lights. The scents of burning rubber and natural gas. And a feeling of pressure on their bodies that continued to grow and grow over time.
It was a scene both Clark and Smith said they could have envisioned in a movie. Just never in real life.
"I just remember hearing this really loud crashing noise," Clark, 24, said Tuesday afternoon when recalling the incident.
Unfortunately for Clark and Smith, the movie-like scene played out in a matter of moments shortly after 4 a.m. that morning as a truck driving down Main Street in Helper jumped a few curbs along the road before going airborne into the side of the home pinning the couple under the truck.
"You don't ever expect a truck to crash into your house almost crushing you to death while you're sleeping," Smith, 24, said.
Clark, who was closer to the wall when laying on the mattress, was pinned completely under the truck. Her first thought was that the house somehow caved in around them, but that changed when she said something was pushing down with a lot of force on her chest. She said it was one of the truck's tires resting directly on her chest, making it hard to breathe and communicate. Smith, who was partially pinned by the truck, was able to maneuver around and push the truck back enough to free himself while unknowingly moving the truck's tire off of Clark's chest and on to her right shoulder.
"The scene was a complete mess," Smith said. "Just lots of damage."
Smith, who was fighting to regain a sense of his surroundings, began screaming out for help. Unsure of where Clark was in the rubble, he continued to call out for her. Despite not being able to see much, Clark said she'll never forget hearing Smith's voice at that moment.
"He was screaming 'help me' in such a way that I'll never forget that for the rest of my life," she said.
As emergency personnel began arriving at the scene, another more serious problem was discovered. When the truck slammed into the house, not only did it tear down walls, it also ruptured a gas line which began spewing natural gas into the house. Emergency personnel had to wait nearly an hour until it was safe to go in and search for Clark. Worrying one spark could have set off an explosion, surrounding homes were evacuated. Helper Fire Chief Mike Zamantakis said the natural gas leak was so strong that it could be smelt from a block away.
Clark said the hour felt like an eternity. She said her body was pinned in such a way that only had her right hand free to move around. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she reached around and was able to feel some piping just beside her body. Clark said she kept hearing a voice inside of her telling her to keep trying to make noise.
"I just kept getting this feeling, something telling me to make noise, make noise," she recalled.
After an hour passed, a Questar worker arrived at the scene and got underneath the truck and was able to use a wooden plug to close the gas line.
Once the levels of gas were low enough, rescuers were able to finally enter the house. Clark said she heard a voice as they began moving around the area.
"I heard a voice say 'Hello?' and I just whispered hi back to him," she said as she continued swinging her right hand around. Finally a rescuer grabbed her free hand and began talking with her and explained the situation.
"I remember him telling the others that 'She's alive,'" she said. "I wanted to go to sleep but they kept telling me no, I need to stay awake."
It was then she first heard of exactly what happened. "Do you realize you are under a truck right now?" Clark remembers a rescue worker asking her.
Rescue workers were finally able to free Clark from the scene, ending the misery she experienced stuck under the truck wondering if she would live much longer.
"It was the worst pain I've ever felt," Clark said of being pulled out from under the truck. "I honestly thought I was dead. It all just didn't seem real."
Both Clark and Smith said they didn't know if each other survived the accident. It wasn't until they were stretched into the same room at Castleview Hospital that they saw each other for the first time.
Smith, who suffered cuts, bruises and injuries to his chest and ribs, said he was able to walk away from the hospital a short time later. Clark was transported to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo. Doctors originally thought she had suffered a number of serious internal injuries. But they only diagnosed her with a broken clavicle, fractured vertebra, a severely sprained ankle, broken blood vessel in her right eye along with a number of bruises, cuts and scrapes.
Clark was finally able to return home to Helper on Monday after spending time in the hospital recovering. She and Smith were happy to reunite with their families, including their 2-year-old daughters, Emmalei Ann and Ashlei Nicole.
While the couple is still continuing to recuperate, they have both experienced night terrors which has made it difficult to sleep. Even though they no longer sleep in a bedroom adjacent to a road, the thought of a vehicle crashing into the house is still difficult to overcome.
"When you're sleeping in your bedroom, you're supposed to think it's a safe place to be," Smith explained.
Helper Police believe the driver of the truck, 21-year-old Jacob Hughes of Roosevelt, fell asleep behind the wheel. Helper Police Chief Trent Anderson said they don't expect drugs or alcohol played a factor in the accident. Anderson said they expect to issue a Hughes a citation.
Clark said the accident has made the couple more aware of the dangers of driving drowsy at the wheel of a vehicle. She hopes people will be more careful in the future when choosing to drive if someone isn't fully alert.
"I never thought much of things like this while driving before," Clark said. "I hope nobody ever drives drowsy again."
While sitting in a recliner at home with her twin daughters laughing and running around, Clark said she is fortunate to be alive. She and Smith credit the hard work of rescuers as they reason they are both alive today.
"They're all heroes," Clark said of the emergency personnel who responded to the scene. "If it wasn't for the number of choices they made in those moments, I don't know if I would have made it out alive."