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Transportation

Heroic Engineer Crashes Own Vehicle To Save a Life 486

Posted by kdawson
from the delta-vee dept.
scottbomb sends in this feel-good story of an engineer-hero, calling it "one of the coolest stories I've read in a long time." "A manager of Boeing's F22 fighter-jet program, Innes dodged the truck, then looked back to see that the driver was slumped over the wheel. He knew a busy intersection was just ahead, and he had to act fast. Without consulting the passengers in his minivan — 'there was no time to take a vote' — Innes kicked into engineer mode. 'Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together,' Innes explained."
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Heroic Engineer Crashes Own Vehicle To Save a Life

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  • Oh, snap! (Score:3, Funny)

    by menegator (539434) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:11AM (#33985404)
    I'm sure that the insurance guys will love this explanation!
    • Re:Oh, snap! (Score:5, Informative)

      by wes5550 (1911966) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:14AM (#33985428)

      I'm sure that the insurance guys will love this explanation!

      Actually, if you read the article, you'll see that State Farm sent him a thank you letter.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:40AM (#33985742)

        Actually, if you read the article...

        Hey, come on now, that's cheating!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by mysurp (712588)

      I'm sure that the insurance guys will love this explanation!

      They did, they even sent Innes a "thank you for being a hero" letter. There really should be more people like him in the world!

    • Considering the engineer is 48, most likely it won't really affect his insurance rates. If the engineer has been with the same company and hasn't had many accidents/tickets, the likelihood is that the company has already made more than enough money off premiums to cover this incident.
      • Re:Oh, snap! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TamCaP (900777) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:20AM (#33985494)
        It was the insurer of Pace (the unconscious guy), the State Farm, that paid all the costs. It's a simple calculation - the cost of damages was under $4k, while cost of damages if Pace was allowed to continue would probably be at least 10x, if not 100x as much. They saved a lot of money thanks to him, that's why they footed the bill (+ some good publicity).
        • Re:Oh, snap! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:29AM (#33985578)
          That's good. Sometimes the insurance companies react strangely to accidents. I guess it depends on the company, agent, etc. Sometimes they seem to go for short term gains rather than long term gains. For example, State Farm was one of the companies that were denying claims in Mississippi after Katrina. Most often homeowners do not get flood insurance which is a separate policy. State Farm's basis of denial were that the homes in Mississippi were damaged by flood and not the hurricane force winds that hit them, ripped openings, and allowed the rain to come in. If Senator Trent Lott hadn't been one of the homeowners affected, State Farm probably would have fought it for longer than 3 years.
    • Re:Oh, snap! (Score:5, Informative)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:15AM (#33985458) Homepage Journal

      Actually they did; they paid for damages to his minivan and thanked him for his actions (I (gasp) RTFA). He saved them a lot of money, and probably saved a lot of people from getting injured or killed.

    • by powerlord (28156)

      I'm sure that the insurance guys will love this explanation!

      Actually, according to TFA:

      State Farm, Pace's insurance company, covered the roughly $3,500 in damage to Innes' car, and a claim representative sent Innes a letter of appreciation this summer.

      "We wish to thank you for the actions you took to save Bill's life," State Farm's Clayton Ande wrote. "State Farm and the Pace family consider you to be a hero. I wish there were more people like you in the world."

  • I saw this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:13AM (#33985422) Homepage Journal

    In a CHiPs episode!

    Seriously, well done sir. I love it when I solve problems in real time with engineering.

    • It was also used in 'Riding With Death' with semis...but don't think it's a good movie, it's a MST3K episode.

  • Burnout (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:16AM (#33985462)

    I'm still wondering why he didn't tap the "X" button to make a bigger explosion. He could have easily popped his car into the oncoming traffic and get like a 100x chain reaction bonus.

  • A rarity. Thanks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:20AM (#33985490)

    OK... I have a BIG problem with the driver not consulting the passengers while claiming "there was no time to take a vote". That is EXACTLY how dictatorships and police states are formed. He should have handed out paper ballots ("crash" or "don't crash") and then used the minivan's "On Star" service as electioneers to authorize, count and declare the vote. Then and only then should he have been allowed to do this. Hitler didn't do it either and look how that turned out. (Godwin!)

    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:44AM (#33985830)

      I think they should make this into a movie - here's some snappy dialogue that I have a feeling might achieve a timeless immortality in pop culture

      Driver: We don't have time to discuss this in a committee"

      Passenger: I am not a committee

      • by macshit (157376) <miles@g[ ]org ['nu.' in gap]> on Friday October 22, 2010 @12:35PM (#33986578) Homepage

        ... then they would wrestle, with the minivan careening crazily all over the road as they roll around and dangled off the back... pulling themselves up just in time as the pickup truck repeatedly bumped the back of the van, and then having a fistfight on the roof of the minivan, which would then plunge off a giant cliff in slow motion, with the (driver or passenger, whoever's the good guy) grabbing onto a tree on the edge of the cliff and saving himself with one hand while he snatched the unconscious pickup-truck driver to safety with other (as the pickup truck too plunged into the void). Then the pickup-truck driver would wake up and ask woozily what on earth he was doing dangling off this cliff and the hero would answer "just hanging around" (with an austrian accent).

        I'd watch it...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Passenger 2: I have a bad feeling about this

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      They were free to jump out when he told them what he was about to do.

  • I wanted to hear how he used a F22 fighter-jet to stop a truck. But he used a minivan. Boooriiinng.

    • by tmosley (996283) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:31AM (#33985596)
      Well, there's pretty much only one way you can stop a truck with an F-22, and it doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to figure it out (though they were instrumental in making it work!).
    • by Fumus (1258966) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:32AM (#33985616)

      Boooooeing.

      FTFY.

    • by delinear (991444)
      I had exactly the same thought at first - TFS really made it sound like he was flying the F22 and saw some guy slumped over the wheel of his truck. My first thought was how bloody low was he flying to have to dodge trucks, my next was... wow, he's going to eject so he can rush to the guy's aid! Then it started talking about minivans and I was momentarily confused until I reread the first paragraph. Still, guy's definitely a hero even if he didn't have to use a parachute.
    • by DarthVain (724186)

      Using a F22 fighter-jet to stop a truck is easy... oh you mean without vaporizing it... ah yes that might be more difficult I suppose.

      • The F22 still sports a M61A2 20mm cannon even has nearly 5 seconds worth of ammo. That has the potential to leave a vehicle mostly intact.

  • He's a hero and deserves praise, no doubt about it. But I think there's still room to discuss whether what he did was fair to the passengers in his car, whose safety was obviously put at risk. Story says they were his adult children. My children are young. I would not have put them in that sort of danger. (Putting aside the fact that I doubt I would have had the presence of mind to think of doing what he did.)
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:33AM (#33985646) Homepage Journal

      Thats the point. He knew they would be fine because of his engineers skills. The truck is doing 40, you get in front of it and do 39, your risk is almost no existent. Once impact occurs, you can start to break. Control it.

      • by Anonymous Monkey (795756) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:41AM (#33985748)
        And if you know your family well enough, you know what they would say. I know my wife would be mad if I wasted time asking her if it was ok. And if my dad took time to ask me I would ball him out for not acting when he needed to. People in the same family tend to think the same way.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Once impact occurs, you can start to break

        I'm trying real hard to come up with a joke involving braking and breaking... damn, I don't have to! Mod parent "funny"!

    • At least nobody was injured in the crash.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by T Murphy (1054674)
      Assuming your kids aren't riding in the trunk, the people in the car really shouldn't be put in harm by doing this. As the engineer said, he let the pickup hit his car at a low relative speed (the article doesn't mention airbags, but they might not have deployed). Cars can brake far stronger than they can accelerate, so once the cars are in contact you can do a controlled stop without a problem. I assume he had a nice minivan (at least for safety and braking)- he should have decent pay in his position- so t
  • by BobMcD (601576) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:29AM (#33985574)

    This is how it looks when it works. Imagine the news story had it not saved the man's life and one of his kids had been killed instead. The guy took a HUGE risk here, which is an intrinsic part of being a hero, but I pity his kids a little. Were it just me in the car, okay, maybe. But with my little ones in tow? Not a chance. I guess that's why I'm not a hero and he is, eh? At any rate, the safety of the nameless citizen won out over the safety of his own, which strikes me as odd.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      "Adult children" are hardly little ones.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BobMcD (601576)

        Spoken like a child, rather than a parent. If my son described doing this stunt, I'd chew his ass for it but good. My dad would do the same to me, I'm sure. Being a parent changes at 18 years old, true, but it never really goes away.

        • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:59AM (#33986068)
          Speaking as a parent, cut the apron strings. Yeah I get it, you never stop being a parent, but really, you would jump all over an adult child for saving lives, albeit at personal risk? Would you berate them for defusing IEDs for the Army or being a firefighter too? Adults have to set their own priorities and seek their own fulfillment. If their parents can't handle it that generally leads to estrangement.
    • This is because you aren't a trained engineer. Based on the speeds overall speeds, and speeds differences, the risk was almost non existent. It literally would have had a freak incident to even cause a crash. It wasn't like he got in front of a car travelling 60 MPH and just locked up his breaks.

    • by powerlord (28156) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:39AM (#33985724) Journal

      I guess that's why I'm not a hero and he is, eh? At any rate, the safety of the nameless citizens won out over the safety of his own, which strikes me as odd.

      Fixed that for you.

      Part of the calculation he said went through his head was that the Pickup was approaching a busy intersection and could easily take out of a row of cars.

      Still impressive (which is why he's a hero instead of ordinary news), but more than just "one person in trouble". Might have weighed more on his mind.

      • by BobMcD (601576) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:44AM (#33985824)

        Same-as, as far as I'm concerned. I'd easily kill one hundred to save my own kid. Color me weird, but there it is.

        • by powerlord (28156) on Friday October 22, 2010 @12:11PM (#33986220) Journal

          Same-as, as far as I'm concerned. I'd easily kill one hundred to save my own kid. Color me weird, but there it is.

          Its not weird, and most feel the same way.

          The question is at what point the line shifts.

          Would you kill 1,000 to save your kid? 10,000 people? 1,000,000? 10,000,000 wiping out a species that holds a cure for cancer?
          Would it matter if those killed included lots of other children?
          Would it make a difference if you saw any/all of those children before?
          Would it make a difference if you had to physically kill them yourself?

          Not expecting an answer, just asking the question to provoke people to think about the answers. :)

          • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Friday October 22, 2010 @02:07PM (#33988036) Journal

            If I am ever offered the opportunity to trade my life for a million lives, I will look at the situation logically and conclude the highest probablity is that I misunderstood the offer.

            For every hero who sacrifices themselves for the greater good, there's a fool who forgot to carry the two.

        • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday October 22, 2010 @12:30PM (#33986504)

          And this kind of thing is why I've made the argument in the past that having children leads to a significant degradation in morals. You'd rather let some innocent person (someone else's child, parent, and/or spouse BTW) get T-boned at a busy intersection than put your kids at even mild risk (and if you have any confidence in your driving skills at all, mild risk is all we're talking about in this case). It is, to be fair, evolved into our brains to be this way, but it still sickens me a little bit.

    • Matched speeds (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The article says he matched speeds. With matched speeds, the impact would have been minimal. He did not use the impact to stop the other vehicle, he used his own vehicle's brakes.

      Captcha: harmless

    • by houghi (78078)

      The children! Won't anybody think of the children!

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        The children! Won't anybody think of the children!

        Yeah, no. Don't pull that crap on my kids. I have, and will protect, the right to defend them to the best of my ability. Your ridicule is misplaced, and is likewise in poor taste. I'm not advocating sweeping legislative change in order to keep kids safe from sleeping drivers.

  • Hope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eepok (545733) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:41AM (#33985758) Homepage

    I read this on FARK yesterday and I finally had a tiny bit of hope that maybe, if I'm in trouble, someone will be like me and just attempt to do what should be done. This morning, I go the restroom at work, and see that plastered in front of the urinals and on the backs of stall doors (for your easy reading, of course) are lists of ways you're required to respond to emergencies:

    In the case of fire:
    Calmly exit the building
    For no reason, re-enter the building until given the OK by emergency responders

    In the case of a shooting:
    Run, hide, and call the police. Don't try to stop the shooter.

    In case of violence:
    Run, hide, and call the police. Don't try to intervene.

    And the lists go on. I'm surrounded by warnings that if a good actions puts yourself at risk, then the action is BAD. And I weep a little...

    • Re:Hope (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Johnny5000 (451029) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:50AM (#33985914) Homepage Journal

      And the lists go on. I'm surrounded by warnings that if a good actions puts yourself at risk, then the action is BAD. And I weep a little...

      Feel free to ignore the warnings.

      Psych studies show that in a crisis, most people are going to stand there like idiots and do nothing anyway, so encouraging them to get the hell out of danger is a good thing (for them, if not the human race in general.)

      Very few people are going to attempt something heroic. If that's you, then you should go for it anyway.

    • Re:Hope (Score:5, Funny)

      by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:58AM (#33986064)

      Calmly exit the building
      For no reason, re-enter the building until given the OK by emergency responders

      I had to re-read that like 5 times because I thought it meant I SHOULD randomly re-enter the building for the hell of it (without any reason to do so) until the Emergency Responders say it's OK. Then do whatever.

  • Memories (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Friday October 22, 2010 @11:42AM (#33985786) Journal

    Something very much like this happened to me back when I was about 5 or 6 years old.

    I was in the car with my siblings and our mother drove to the grocery store [google.com]. She parked and ran inside for just a few minutes to buy something and my younger brother started playing with the steering wheel, pretending to drive.

    This car was a 1962 Chevy Bel Air and the shifter did not have an a key interlock so as he was flailing around he bumped the car into neutral and it started to roll backwards towards a busy street.

    Some guy who was getting ready to pull out of the parking lot saw what was happening and drove behind us so that the car t-boned his truck instead of rolling out into the street.

  • And then... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday October 22, 2010 @12:09PM (#33986198) Homepage

    The driver of the truck, who had only leaned forward to scratch an itch on his ankle, was a little bit pissed about the whole affair.

    Once he realized that he would have to deal with his insurance company, he faked a heart attack to get out of it. It's what we all would have done.

  • by acid06 (917409) on Friday October 22, 2010 @12:46PM (#33986754)
    When I was a small kid, I was left by myself in the back seat of the car (back then, no one used seatbelts around here, specially in the back seat). For unknown reasons the car lost its brakes and started moving downhill and would exit through the front gate and likely hit the other house across the street. I was able to steer the car so that it crashed the gate instead of going out of our property.

    I don't have clear memories of this as I was small. When my grandmother told this story there was one remarkably funny part.
    She told me when people said stuff like: "It was god who turned that wheel and avoided a tragedy!" I promptly replied: "No, it wasn't god, it was me! I did like this!" and did a swinging motion similar to turning the driving wheel.

    I wish I remembered this last bit. I could then tell everyone I was an atheist even as a kid. ;-)

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