Deadly Day at the Races
"The California 200 is a race that's put on by Mojave Desert Racing. I was out there with my two children, Heather and Jakob. As we were talking with people, a truck went by," recounts Travis.
Keith, another onlooker at the race, says, "It was pretty densely packed with people. As [the driver] came, I said out loud, â€˜You've got to slow down. You're going to kill somebody.'"
"My dad told my little brother and his friend to get back a little bit," says 21-year-old Heather.
"It happened so fast. I looked left, and I saw a white flash," Travis says.
"You hear the crowd just screaming, and then a sinking feeling," Keith recalls.
"I was hit by the truck as it was flipping, and it threw me through the air and knocked me on the ground," Travis says. "I remember looking up and seeing this truck rolling. It came to a stop upside down on my legs."
"The next thing I remember was feeling gas dripping on me, and my first instinct was to try and get away from it," Heather recalls. "I was underneath the bed of the truck after it flipped. This woman had grabbed me, and it was just utter chaos."
[AD]"There were people just laid out all over. There were wallets, hats, keys, shoes. It was really terrible," Keith says.
Travis sustained serious injuries as a result of the crash, breaking his neck in three places as well as five ribs. The driver survived the accident, and Travis remembers making eye contact with him as he lay under the truck. "It was like reality came flooding in: â€˜Oh, my God. Where are my kids?' I went into a panic," he says. "My son, Jakob, found me. He thought I had passed away. He started screaming, â€˜My dad's dead! My dad's dead!'"
Dr. Phil offers his sympathy to Travis and his daughter, Heather, who is weeping. "Let me say, I am so sorry for what you guys have been through. There are no words to describe it," he says.
"I don't think anybody prepares themselves for something like this," Travis says. He explains how he happened to attend the race. "We had our dirt bikes out there, we were out with friends to make an overnight camping [trip] with my chidren. The race was occurring as well, so we figured we'd do a combination of our own time and watch a little bit of the race."
"This truly happened in an instant, right? The time this truck left the ground to the devastation was a few seconds," Dr. Phil observes.
"I never even saw the truck until I heard noise, and I looked to my left. I saw a white blur, and then I was impacted. That's truly all I remember, and then being on the ground," Travis says.
"You survived, but it's not been an easy survival."
[AD]"No, I was there with those people who passed away," Travis responds. "A lot of things go through your head. You wonder: Why did they pass away? Why did I live? What could I have done, if anything?"
"You were very close to major disaster, true?" Dr. Phil asks Heather. "Tell me what you remember about this."
"I remember seeing the truck in the air, and I turned to run, because it looked very high. I remember thinking it was too late," Heather responds. "The next thing I remember was feeling gas dripping on me."
Travis' wife, Jenny, who did not attend the race, shares how she was alerted that her family was in danger. "My son called and said, â€˜Mom,' and that was all I heard. Then a friend got on the phone and said, â€˜There's been a really bad accident,'" she tells Dr. Phil. Her voice breaking, she continues, "I said, â€˜Where are the kids? Where are my kids?' She said, â€˜The kids are OK. We think Travis broke his leg.' So I didn't know the extent of it."
Travis agrees. "I left that Saturday a 40-year-old man and a father, and I came home a week later a 40-year-old infant for my wife to take care of," he says.
"What do you see in your mind's eye?"
"The two things that stick in my mind are one of the victims, Andrew Therrien. I was talking to him just minutes before the accident, and we were talking about his little daughter with him, and how I'd been taking my kids to these events at that same age, and how wonderful a family event this is, and he agreed with me. He's gone," Travis says.
[AD]Heather says she's haunted by memories as well. "It was a like a horror scene, and it keeps replaying in my head," she tells Dr. Phil. "Just bodies scattered. There were people everywhere. It was chaos."
Dr. Phil highlights the steps for coping with trauma:
- Be patient.
- Give yourself time to heal.
- Expect painful times.
- Communicate and ask for support.
- Don't let guilt or fear cause you to withdraw or isolate.