Mishap victims thank anonymous helpers

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2001

The Lewallen family was discussing dinner plans the evening of Nov. 2 as they drove inbound on Egan Drive toward Fred Meyer for some groceries.

Cindy Lewallen said she didn't feel like cooking. But her husband's response was strange.

"Cindy, this is going to hurt," James Lewallen said.

An outbound 1990 Chevrolet Corsica, driven by a woman, 26, had crossed the median. Her 3-year-old daughter was a passenger in the car. The Corsica struck the left quarter panel of the Lewallens' 1984 full-size Blazer, trapping James and Cindy, both 33, and their children Natasha, 12, Amanda, 10, and Cheyenne, 4, in their vehicle.

Bystanders immediately descended on the Blazer.

"We would have been more panicked if it weren't for them," Cindy Lewallen said. "They stayed there and kept us calm while we waited for the paramedics. And I'm not talking about one or two people. There had to be at least 20 of them.

"They were amazing. They had no fear. They weren't concerned that if they got involved they might get in trouble," she said. "They just came running to us.".

Lewallen doesn't remember the moment of impact, but her husband does.

He said he saw the Corsica hit his side of the Blazer. Police told the Lewallens the combined impact of the crash equaled 90 mph and turned the Blazer into a spinning, twisted weapon.

"I remember thinking, 'I have to keep the truck pointed left,' because I knew that's where the median was. I didn't even realize we were spinning," James Lewallen said.

"Every night before I go to sleep I can still see Cindy's head hitting the windshield, her chest hitting the steel dashboard and the windshield breaking. I don't think I'll ever forget it," he said.

The accident folded the sturdy Blazer. It spun James Lewallen's passenger seat, he said, so he could see his daughters in the back seat. His wife was unconscious and bleeding. His daughter Amanda screamed and she tried to pull herself from the floorboard after she hit the back of his seat when her seat belt broke.

Daughter Natasha's face was swelling after she was knocked out briefly by a tool box flying from the back of the Blazer. And Cheyenne, still strapped in her car seat, was screaming over everyone, "Why can't Mommy move?"

In the chaos the Lewallens barely had time to notice nearly 20 bystanders tearing apart the Blazer to get to the children.

"Angels. That's all I remember thinking," Cindy Lewallen said. "We knew they were coming to help. They started coming around the truck. Then they busted out the back windows. We were screaming, 'Get the kids. Get the kids first,' but they were already doing it."

While several bystanders tried to free the children, another saw how badly Cindy Lewallen was hurt.

"I remember seeing this man standing by his car across the street just looking at us," she said. "I had my hand up on my window and as it slid away there was all this blood. He saw that and ran across the highway and started trying to get me out of the truck."

Bystanders also helped the woman in the other vehicle, who was ejected from the car, and her daughter.

"I thought the world was cold and hard ... and that when there was an accident all people wanted to do was rubber-neck," Cindy Lewallen said. "But there are 20 angels out there who've taught me different. We don't know their names, but they know who they are."

Cindy Lewallen suffered a broken femur and a concussion in the accident. The children had assorted cuts and bruises and Amanda suffered a concussion. And James Lewallen, who was nearest the point of impact, suffered only scrapes and bruises.

Police said today they are still investigating the crash.

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