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Locals help woman stranded after car crash

Tue., June 29, 2010, 11:25 a.m.

Ted and Dustin Conrad know the roads around Harrison — to the point of noticing new skidmarks.

And Lucille Collins is thankful for that.

The injured 72-year-old Coeur d’Alene woman was stranded more than 12 hours on Saturday night and Sunday morning about 45 yards down a steep embankment off Highway 97 after a car crash about a mile south of Harrison.

Ted and his 19-year-old son, Dustin, who were on their way fishing, found Collins after they noticed the skidmarks and no flares in the road.

“They were my saviors,” said Collins, who was in good condition at Kootenai Medical Center on Monday but suffered a broken sternum, a deep gash over her left eye, ankle injuries and several bruises. “I told them that I could kiss them; I was so happy.”

Ted said that he and Dustin, who live on the Harrison Flats near Harrison, did a simultaneous double-take after passing the skidmarks.

“Being locals, we pretty much know all the skidmarks on the roads, and these were new,” Ted said. “I said, ’Wouldn’t that suck if there was a car down there and nobody stopped.’

“It only took a minute to go back to check and, sure enough, there was a car upside down there. I’m just glad that we went back because she may have been down there awhile.”

When the Conrads yelled to see if anyone would respond, Collins answered.

“There must’ve been 50 cars that drove by, and finally someone stopped,” Collins said.

The car was not visible from the highway, so Collins is thankful someone stopped when they did.

According to Idaho State Police, Collins was northbound on Highway 97 in a 2003 Buick Century at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday when she drove off the right gravel shoulder, overcorrected and slid across both lanes onto the opposite shoulder.

The vehicle went about 45 yards over the embankment before coming to rest on its top. It was stopped by two trees, including one at the back of the vehicle that was only about 6 inches in diameter.

The small tree prevented the vehicle from tumbling another 80 yards down to O’Gara Road, said ISP Trooper Allen Ashby.

“Had that tree not been there, there’s a good chance that she would’ve went down the whole distance and it would have been a different outcome,” Ashby said.

Conrad said a friend of his died several years ago after going over the same embankment.

Collins had driven about 10 hours from Billings, Mont., on Saturday and was headed to the Harrison area to go camping with a friend. She said she doesn’t recall falling asleep, but Ashby, who cited her for inattentive driving, suspects she was tired at the minimum.

Collins admits the trip may have been too much for one day.

“I suppose I got tired and I can’t blame it on anybody else,” Collins said.

After the tumble, Collins opened the passenger side window and wiggled out of the vehicle. However, she was unable to climb up to Highway 97 or traverse down to O’Gara Road due to her injuries.

“I was just too weak,” she said.

At first, Collins said she was upset about wrecking the car she loved. She then realized the situation could have been worse as she could have died.

As time went on and vehicles drove by, her thoughts turned to fear.

“If nobody came for two or three days, I thought I could probably die,” she said. “A lot of things go through your mind.”

Collins said she had a cell phone, but it likely was lost in the crash and she never heard rings. She said she later learned that the friend she was going to go camping with tried calling her several times and drove to look for her, but to no avail.

Collins said she bled from the head throughout the clear night, got shivering cold with temperatures in the lower 50s and dozed off a few times.

“It was a beautiful, moonlit night,” she said. “The birds were up almost all night because they didn’t know it was dark. I had some ants visit, but the mosquitoes were not too bad.”

The Conrads found Collins about 9 a.m. Several bystanders assisted Ashby and medics take Collins on a backboard down to O’Gara Road.

Collins’ daughter, Lisa Kinsey, was just returning from Chicago and was unaware of the situation until after her mom was found.

“She’s a very lucky and tough gal,” Kinsey said at her mom’s side in the hospital.

Collins said she hopes to be released from the hospital today and thanking the Conrads is foremost on her mind.

“I tell everyone that this was not on my bucket list to do,” she said. “But you do look at things differently after something like this happens.”



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