WASHINGTON, D.C. - A horrific crash in Southeast Washington on Wednesday afternoon left five people trapped inside the vehicles involved, and sent a number of witnesses racing to the scene to try and help. The aftermath of the crash was even caught on tape by news crews who were nearby.
Oh my God! Oh my God! Someone call 911! Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander started yelling at her communications director to call 911 as she ran towards a terrible crash at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Alabama Avenue in Southeast.
Just moments earlier, Alexander and other high-ranking city officials were patiently waiting for D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty to arrive at a barber shop located in a shopping center at the busy intersection. Along with all the major television stations and other news outlets, they were about to start a news conference on a new series of HIV initiatives.
But then a white Toyota SUV T-boned a gold Cadillac so hard that the SUV flipped up and over the other car, landing on its roof.
Ron Holt jumped out of his car and headed for the SUV.
"There's still a lady in there," Holt said. "The seat belt had her hooked up in the seat upside down."
James Cox was inside the barber shop waiting on the mayor when he heard the crash. He ran towards the Cadillac and tried to comfort a woman trapped inside.
She's like squeezing our hand and everything, trying to keep her together until the ambulance gets here," said Cox.
Witnesses say they could see flames as metal tore into metal. Dozens of people tried to help, some using fire extinguishers. Other pulled out power tools.
But one man in a blue button-down shirt and black slacks took charge. Dr. Pierre Vigilance is the Director of D.C. Department of Health. Although not currently practicing, the doctor started issuing orders, telling people to not pull survivors out of the vehicles.
"You don't know whether or not you have a neck injury, Dr. Vigilance says. Its people's natural instinct, but you have to be careful."
Mayor Adrian Fenty stood with Alexander, taking it all in.
"The first thing you notice is wow, this is really a bad accident, the Mayor says. The cars crumpled up, people trapped inside."
The D.C. Fire Department says five people were hurt. Two were pulled out before Dr. Vigilance could stop them. Two were trapped, one in each car, and need the Jaws of Life to get them out. One person had life-threatening injuries and was transported by helicopter to a local hospital. The mayor says he actually spoke to one man who managed to walk away from it all.
"I say Pennsylvania Avenue and Alabama is definitely a trouble intersection," Mayor Fenty says. "It's steep, it's rush hour. A lot of cars, a lot of pedestrians and it s a busy intersection. And busy intersections need traffic calming especially more than other intersections."
Alexander says they average about one accident a month at or near the intersection. She says just the night before, she and community leaders in Ward 7 had agreed the time had come to make some changes.
"Red light cameras, speed humps, stop signs or traffic lights, Alexander says. We desperately need something on Pennsylvania Avenue; there are too many accidents in a six block radius. It may not happen tomorrow, but with all the residents behind it, with the council member supporting it, I m sure the mayor is willing to work something out because it saves lives.
And she says it doesn t hurt that the Mayor witnessed the most recent crash in person.