WHITELAND, Ind. — On Tuesday, a driver in Johnson County had a close call when a piece of unsecured wood fell off a passing semi trailer and pierced her windshield, missing her by inches.
“It’s like one of the movies ‘Final Destination’ type moments,” said Michael Pruitt, deputy chief of the Bargersville Fire Department.
The driver of the SUV impacted by the 2×4 piece of wood, Barbara Noble, was on her normal drive to work Tuesday morning when the accident occurred in the 1400 block of W. 500 N. Road in Whiteland.
“I was just driving on the Whiteland road. It’s very dark, it’s very narrow, there are no lights out there,” said Noble. “I thought, ‘Oh here comes a semi coming through pretty quickly, his lights are very bright.'”
Although she saw the truck about to pass her, coming from the opposite direction, what she didn’t see coming was the object about to narrowly miss her.
“As soon as that semi was even with me, then it just went, bam,” said Noble. “The 2×4 shot off his truck and just went through my windshield. I can’t even tell you how loud it was.”
“Next thing you know she was making friends with a 2×4 through her windshield,” said Pruitt.
Noble said she checked her rearview mirror for any cars behind her, slowed down and pulled over to call police.
“The semi took off. I’m sure he probably didn’t know he almost killed someone with a 2×4,” said Noble. “I wasn’t following him. This wasn’t a case of following too closely and something slid, it was— it was going two different ways. It’s dangerous no matter how you look at it, very dangerous to not secure your loads”
“I just was covered in glass,” she said. “Every square centimeter was covered in glass from the dash to the cargo area.”
According to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy located and stopped the semi and observed 2×4 wood pieces in the back of the truck. A crash report states the driver told police he didn’t load the truck himself and also didn’t know he lost anything from the trailer.
The driver is not facing any charges and aside from pieces of glass that Noble said got in her eyes from the impact, she walked away from the accident mostly unharmed.
“I’m so thankful and blessed that I walked away from it with, you know, very little injury,” she said. “It was a miracle, actually.”
“There are a lot of family and friends that I have who would be very upset if it had been two or three inches to the left,” said Noble. “I would be gone right now so they would be mourning, but I’m here so let’s make something of it let’s do something with this.”
Pruitt said it’s not uncommon for first responders to see accidents like this, but not all have as positive of an outcome.
“I have seen over the years individuals that weren’t so lucky when something came through the windshield and struck them,” said Pruitt.
“We drive down the road every day. We see loads on trucks and we also see those individuals who have packed everything that they own in the back of a pickup truck, it’s completely overloaded,” he said.
Sometimes those may be hauling construction material, waste material, any other items.
He added, “truck drivers are focused on the road ahead and not necessarily what’s going on behind them, so they may lose something and strike a vehicle and not even know about it.”
“We don’t think about something coming off of that truck and it could be something coming in the opposite direction,” he said. “We worry about the cars, and maybe colliding with the cars, and not necessarily the objects maybe on those cars.”
He said when crews are dispatched to an accident scene like this, where an object goes through the windshield of a vehicle, there’s nothing more relieving than finding out the driver and any passengers are okay.
“It’s always a much better situation when we see everybody’s out of the car and basically they’ve just been scared,” said Pruitt. “If we see the person out of the car that’s a miracle.”
Although Noble walked away mostly unharmed, she said she didn’t get out of the car until officers arrived on scene because she wanted to be sure she wasn’t injured and remain calm so she didn’t worsen the situation.
Noble said she told dispatch, “Would you please get here? I’m covered in glass and afraid to move.”
“As soon as the first officer came, and I rolled down my window that’s when it hit me, “said Noble, “because his reaction to what he saw with that 2×4 next to me and through my windshield was, ‘if he thinks it’s that bad it must be that bad.’”
Pruitt said this is why their department and area agencies train for these types of scenarios, especially for scenarios where they may need to remove someone from a vehicle that had an object come through the windshield or one of the side windows, and impale them.
Noble hopes this close encounter encourages one more person hitting the road to double check what they’re hauling and that it’s locked down before an innocent life is lost.
“There are a lot of things that go through my mind, but mostly I just want to make sure that something is learned from this,” she said.
“Obviously she had an angel riding on her shoulder and if there was anything such as a lottery ticket or anything that you want to bet on, this will be the time to do it,” said Pruitt.
We asked Noble if she’s picked hers up. She said she hasn’t gone to the store to buy one yet.
She responded, “Not yet! Not so far but I don’t know if there’s a statute of limitations on the timeframe I can do that and actually win.”
Several agencies responded to the scene, including the Bargersville Fire Department’s paramedic and EMS crews, the Whiteland Fire Department, Bargersville Police Department, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.