At least 41 people were killed and more than 60 injured after a Taiwanese train carrying almost 500 passengers derailed in a tunnel on Friday when it apparently hit a truck that slid off a road leading to a nearby construction site.
The crash, which also killed the train’s driver, is the island’s worst rail disaster in at least four decades.
The train, an express travelling from Taipei to Taitung, came off the rails north of Hualien in eastern Taiwan. It was carrying many tourists and people heading home at the start of a long weekend traditional holiday to tend to family tombs.
Images of the crash scene showed carriages inside the tunnel ripped apart from the impact, while others crumpled, hindering rescuers reaching passengers, though as of mid-afternoon only two people remained trapped in the wreckage.
Transport Minister Lin Chia-lung told reporters on the scene that the train was carrying about 490 people — higher than an earlier fire department figure of 350.
Taiwan media said many people were standing as the train was so full, and were thrown about when it crashed, and showed pictures of survivors being led out the tunnel.
“People just fell all over each other, on top of one another,” one female survivor told local television. “It was terrifying. There were whole families there.”
The official Central News Agency said a truck whose handbrake was not engaged was suspected of sliding off a sloping road into the path of the train, and that police had taken in the driver for questioning.
The fire department showed a picture of what appeared to be the truck’s wreckage lying next to the derailed train, and an aerial image of the end of the train sitting on the track next to a construction site.
‘The truck came falling down’
“Our train crashed into a truck,” one man said in a video aired on Taiwanese television, showing pictures of the wreckage. “The truck came falling down.”
Part of the train was situated outside the tunnel, and those passengers in carriages still in the tunnel had to be led to safety, Taiwan’s railway administration said.
Images showed an injured passenger being stretchered out of the crash scene, her head and neck in a brace, passengers gathering suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage and others walking out of the tunnel on the roof of the train.
The accident occurred at the start of a long weekend for the traditional Tomb Sweeping Day, when people return home to look after family grave sites.
Taiwan’s mountainous east coast is a popular tourist destination, and the railway line from Taipei down the east coast is renowned for its tunnels and route that hugs the coast just north of Hualien where the crash occurred. The line connecting Taipei with Hualien was opened only in 1979.
Taiwan’s state-owned railways are generally reliable and efficient, but have had a patchy safety record over the years.
In 2018, 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in northeastern Taiwan. In 1981, 30 were killed in a collision in northern Taiwan, and in 1991 another 30 died in a train crash.
The sheared-off front of the wrecked SUV told part of the story, and the officers on the scene filled in the rest. Tiger Woods was lucky to be alive, they said, thanks to modern safety technology and a big dose of good luck.
Alive and well, no. But alive nonetheless.
The good news — no, make that the BEST news — is that Woods seems on track to survive after being pried Tuesday from the SUV he wrecked in Los Angeles. That’s despite injuries that are so severe — including multiple open fractures of his leg — that he will be convalescing a long, long time.
The other piece of good news was that there was no immediate sign Woods was impaired at the time of the crash — a significant bit of information, of course, because of his past.
The bad news is that the career of the world’s greatest golfer — at least on the game’s biggest stages — is probably over.
WATCH | Woods suffers leg injuries in car crash
Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening. 2:02
A return from his recent back surgery to play again at the age of 45 was always going to be a problem. Woods himself said previously that Father Time remains undefeated and his return to top-level play wasn’t guaranteed.
Combine that with the gruesome injuries from his crash and now that return borders on impossible.
This isn’t Ben Hogan, coming back from a near fatal car accident in 1949 to win the U.S. Open next year. Hogan was nine years younger, hadn’t been through multiple back and knee surgeries, and didn’t have to swing his driver hard enough to hit the ball 350 yards to keep up with the other players.
Woods was fragile enough to begin with, and there were already questions about whether he could return to play at a high level. He might share Hogan’s determination to overcome everything in front of him, but in the end, there’s only so much he can do to mend his broken body.
That means Woods will never break the record of 18 major championship wins held by Jack Nicklaus. It means his fans will never be able to will him on to another win like they did at the 2019 Masters.
And it means golf will be a lot quieter for a long time to come.
The wreck on a downhill stretch of road in tony Rancho Palos Verdes was stunning, though it shouldn’t have come as a shock. It marked the third time in a dozen years that Woods has been taken from vehicles in various stages of distress — a disturbing pattern that began with his infamous Thanksgiving weekend 2009 encounter with his now ex-wife outside his Florida mansion.
Four years ago, after he was found passed out in his car on a Florida highway with the engine running, Woods was charged with a DUI that was later plea bargained down.
Now, the questions are just beginning about how he managed to crash a brand-new Genesis SUV on a clear morning on the California coast — a wreck that sheriff deputies say he was lucky to escape alive.
Suddenly, the 2019 Masters Tournament seems like it was an awful long time ago.
Woods has done things over the years we couldn’t imagine on the golf course. I’ve been along for many of them, covering Woods from his first PGA Tour win in Las Vegas in 1996 as well as the Masters comeback win two years ago that was one of the great sports stories of our times.
He transitioned from young phenom to all-time great as the years and the wins piled up, only to be humbled by a scandal that cost him his marriage and a lot of fans. Then he came back to win his fifth green jacket in a storybook tale that might have made him more popular than ever.
Woods celebrated behind the 18th green that day by hugging his children, much as he celebrated becoming the youngest Masters champion ever in 1997 by hugging his father. Woods not only seemed to regain his game in the last few years but his ability to connect with others as he began smiling and signing autographs like it wasn’t the chore he made it out to be most of his career.
WATCH | ‘Probably the best player ever’
Lorne Rubenstein, who co-authored “The 1997 Masters: My Story” with Tiger Woods, reflects on the golfer and the man. 12:32
On Sunday he was at the Genesis Invitational at nearby Riviera Country Club as the tournament host. He couldn’t play because of his most recent back surgery just before Christmas but came on CBS to answer questions about whether he would be back in time for the Masters.
“God, I hope so,” Woods said. “I gotta get there, first.”
He won’t be there this year. The odds are he will never tee it up at Augusta National as a competitive player again.
The one sure thing is that golf won’t be the same without him. The game will survive, of course, but it’s hard to imagine it without the one player who transcended the sport.
The only thing that really matters now, though, is that Woods survived, too.
Tiger Woods was seriously injured Tuesday when his SUV rolled over and ended up on its side in suburban Los Angeles, authorities said. The golf superstar had to be extricated, and his agent said he was undergoing leg surgery.
Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed shortly before 7:15 a.m. PT, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. No other cars were involved.
The cause of the wreck wasn’t clear. The two-lane road curves through upscale suburbs, and the northbound side that Woods was driving on descends steeply enough that signs warn trucks to use lower gears. The speed limit is 45 mph, a little over 70 km/h.
At a news conference Tuesday, the police chief and fire chief of Los Angeles County said there’s no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired in the crash, but didn’t answer follow-up questions about how they know or about how fast he was driving. Weather was not a factor in the crash, they said.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Fire Chief Daryl Osby also say Woods was conscious and able to communicate when authorities arrived to pry him from the car.
WATCH | Woods suffers leg injuries in car crash:
Golfer sustained multiple leg injuries after rollover accident in Los Angeles area and is undergoing surgery, his agent said. 1:11
Images showed the SUV on its side, with its front end heavily damaged, just off the side of a road near a hillside. An ambulance took the 45-year-old Woods to a hospital, authorities said.
“Tiger Woods was in a single-car accident this morning in California where he suffered multiple leg injuries,” said his manager, Mark Steinberg. “He is currently in surgery and we thank you for your privacy and support.”
Barbara Ferraro, a councilwoman in the community of Rancho Palos Verdes, said the road where Woods crashed is not winding like other stretches but it’s steep and not far from a gravel runaway truck lane that was ahead before the next traffic light.
“It’s easy to pick up speed,” Ferraro said. “Even if you’re not speeding, unless you’re actually putting on the brakes, you’ll pick up speed.”
The crash happened on the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, two upscale communities about 32 kilometres south of downtown Los Angeles.
There was a second crash when a vehicle that had apparently stopped to help Woods got hit, said Christopher Thomas, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. That wreck was very minor, and no one was hurt.
WATCH | ‘Probably the best player ever’:
Lorne Rubenstein, who co-authored “The 1997 Masters: My Story” with Tiger Woods, reflects on the golfer and the man. 12:32
Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where he presented the trophy on Sunday. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement. A tweet Monday showed Woods in a cart smiling with comedian David Spade.
According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons for celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade, at Rolling Hills Country Club.
5th back surgery in December
Woods, a 15-time major champion who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, has been recovering from Dec. 23 surgery on his lower back. It was his fifth back surgery and first since his lower spine was fused in April 2017, allowing him to stage a remarkable comeback that culminated with his fifth Masters title in 2019.
He has carried the sport since his record-setting Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific rate in modern PGA Tour history. He is singularly responsible for TV ratings spiking, which has led to enormous increases in prize money during his career. Even at 45, he remains the biggest draw in the sport.
The SUV he was driving Tuesday had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational. Tournament director Mike Antolini did not immediately respond to a text message, though it is not unusual for players to keep courtesy cars a few days after the event.
Woods feared he would never play again until the 2017 fusion surgery. He returned to win the Tour Championship to close out the 2018 season and won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time.
He last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Fla., an unofficial event where players are paired with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter.
During the Sunday telecast on CBS from the golf tournament, Woods was asked about playing the Masters on April 8-11 and said, “God, I hope so.” He said he feeling a little stiff and had one more test to see if he was ready for more activities.
He was not sure when he would play again.
Athletes including Mike Tyson and Magic Johnson offered hopes Woods would make a quick recovery.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” Justin Thomas, the No. 3 golf player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Bradenton, Fla. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he’s all right.”
This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months.
In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.
Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. The surgery Tuesday would be his 10th. He has had four previous surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, and the five surgeries on his back.
Indonesian rescuers pulled body parts, pieces of clothing and scraps of metal from the Java Sea early Sunday morning, a day after a Boeing 737-500 with 62 people onboard crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, officials said.
Officials were hopeful they were homing in on the wreckage of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 after sonar equipment detected a signal from the aircraft.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi told reporters that authorities have launched massive search efforts after identifying “the possible location of the crash site.”
“These pieces were found by the SAR team between Lancang Island and Laki Island,” National Search and Rescue Agency Bagus Puruhito said in a statement.
Indonesian military chief Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said teams on the Rigel navy ship equipped with a remote-operated vehicle had detected a signal from the aircraft, which fit the coordinates from the last contact made by the pilots before the plane went missing.
“We have immediately deployed our divers from navy’s elite unit to determine the finding to evacuate the victims,” Tjahjanto said.
More than 12 hours since the Boeing plane operated by the Indonesian airline lost contact, little is known about what caused the crash.
Fishermen in the area around Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta’s coast, reported hearing an explosion around 2:30 p.m. local time Saturday.
“We heard something explode, we thought it was a bomb or a tsunami since after that we saw the big splash from the water,” fisherman Solihin, who goes by one name, told The Associated Press by phone.
“It was raining heavily and the weather was so bad. So it is difficult to see around clearly. But we can see the splash and a big wave after the sounds. We were very shocked and directly saw the plane debris and the fuel around our boat.”
Sumadi said Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour before it took off at 2:36 p.m. local time. It disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 8,839 metres, he said.
There were 62 people on board, including seven children and three babies.
Authorities established two crisis centres, one at airport and one at port. Families gathered to wait for news of loved ones.
On social media, people began circulating the flight manifest with photos and videos of those who were listed as passengers. One video shows a woman with her children waving goodbye while walking through the airport.
Plane was ‘airworthy’
Sriwijaya Air President Director Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane, which is 26 years old and previously used by airlines in the United States, was airworthy. He told reporters Saturday that the plane had previously flown to Pontianak and Pangkal Pinang city on the same day.
“Maintenance report said everything went well and airworthy,” Jauwena told a news conference. He said the plane was delayed due to bad weather, not because of any damage.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.
In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. The plane involved in Saturday’s incident did not have the automated flight-control system that played a role in the Lion Air crash and another crash of a 737 MAX 8 jet in Ethiopia five months later, leading to the grounding of the MAX 8 for 20 months.
The Lion Air crash was Indonesia’s worst airline disaster since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda airlines flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.
Sriwijaya Air has only has several minor incidents in the past, though a farmer was killed in 2008 when landing plane went off runway due to a hydraulic issue.
The United States banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007, but reversed the decision in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards. The European Union has previously had similar bans, lifting them in June 2018.
Brady Leman recognizes how bad the terrifying mountain biking crash could have been.
Leman was riding near Fernie, B.C., at the end of May when he was thrown from his bike and slammed into a tree.
He sustained five broken ribs, a fractured collarbone, and a collapsed and punctured lung. But he also left with overwhelming gratitude that the accident wasn’t any worse.
“If you hit a big tree at that speed you can’t do much,” he said. “I was just so thankful that I was going to be okay. I was so thankful for everything in my life … it was a big eye opener.”
Leman says he’s suffered plenty of injuries from skiing throughout his career — including breaking his leg at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics — but the sheer amount of trauma to his core from the crash had him in severe pain.
Luckily, he said, he didn’t hit his head or back.
But the Calgarian has an unstoppable nature. Only three months after needing help to get out of bed, Leman was back in the gym, and the accident felt “like a bad dream.” He even found time to hit the trails on his bike again.
The World Cup circuit is back on Monday with ski cross athletes competing in a pair of nighttime races on Dec. 15 and 16 in Arosa, Switzerland. The event will be streamed on CBCSports.ca.
The start to the season comes after Alpine Canada called its athletes — who were already training in Switzerland — back to Canada in early November, citing the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Europe. Canada’s ski cross team falls under this organization’s umbrella.
World Cup circuit
The World Cup stop at Val Thorens, France is set for Dec. 19 and 20. After a holiday break, skiers will head to Austria’s Montafon for Jan. 15. Idre Fjäll — a 600-metre sprint event and back-to-back races — runs on Jan. 23 and 24 in Sweden, followed by Feldberg, Germany on Jan. 30 and 31.
For the first time, skiers will go to Bakuriani, Georgia for a test event on Feb. 6 in preparation for the 2023 world championships. The world premiere of the ski cross team event is scheduled for Feb. 7. Next is Russia’s Sunny Valley on March 13, before the World Cup Finals and crystal globe presentation on March 21 in Veysonnaz, Switzerland.
When CBC Sports spoke to Leman in October, the freestyle skier said he was “totally recovered” from his crash — despite some strength that needed to come back in his shoulder — and was preparing for the upcoming season.
“It’s something I would definitely prefer to [not] go through at 33,” Leman laughed. “But at the same time … it gives me some confidence I’m still resilient enough to bounce back from something like that. Makes me realize that whatever life throws at me, I’m still going to be able to deal with it.”
The accident followed a season that frustrated the 2018 Olympic gold medallist — an emotional roller coaster of one-off events where he “never got it going.”
But when the dust settled, it still ended with Leman ranked number three in the world. Canada’s Kevin Drury captured the Crystal Globe.
Leman says he started off burnt-out instead of hungry when the World Cup circuit opened in December — the result of starting his training in the summer. But a reset over Christmas helped the decorated athlete find some speed and a quieter mind.
World Cup stops at the start of 2020 saw Leman place fifth in Canada (Nakiska) and 10th in France (Megeve.) He was also within reach of the podium with a pair of fourth-place finishes in Sweden (Idre Fjäll) and Russia (Sunny Valley.)
The 2016 X Games champion says he takes confidence in knowing those places could very well have been podium finishes.
“When I felt like I wasn’t all the way there, I was still in the mix in the top three in the world and giving myself a chance to be on the podium [for] a good chunk of the races,” he said. “I had some bad luck in the finals … could have been a win in the mix there, and that would’ve totally changed the feeling on the season. So I take a lot of confidence from that.”
The World Cup Finals in Switzerland were abruptly cancelled the night before the event, and competition around the world came to a stop due to COVID-19.
“I didn’t think we should have gone to finals in the first place,” he said. “It was frustrating in that sense, and then also in the sense that I was skiing really well. I was feeling really good, training times were looking phenomenal, [and I] was super primed to have one more good race.”
With a laugh, Leman said he “thinks” he’s crossing his fingers that the world championships in China will pan out.
“There’s a lot of unknowns. Normally you’re going over and the only thing you’re really worried about is getting hurt. And now it’s not,” he said.
The year will also be about building the momentum he needs on the rise to another Olympic season, he added.
This year’s circumstances mean having to balance a new array of thoughts and concerns, all the while trying to focus on training and competing. The need for mindfulness and taking time to centre oneself, he said, is crucial.
One of the benefits, Leman said, is you can’t afford to think about too much else when you’re skiing on a glacier.
“I think once we get over there, [get] into the swing of things, it’s going to be nice to just be able to focus on skiing and get back into a little bit of what would be normal for an athlete,” he said.
Also among the challenges, Leman added, is his understanding that people might view competing as a “frivolous pursuit.” He hopes people can recognize sports’ importance.
“There’s a lot of people going through a lot of challenges these days, so as an athlete [I] deal with a little bit of guilt on that,” he said. “But it’s our passion and it’s our job and I think there’s a lot of value in sport and inspiring people and distracting people.”
Formula One driver Romain Grosjean expects he will need psychological help to deal with the traumatic memories of his horrific crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The French driver’s car exploded into a fireball after crashing on the first lap and slicing through a metal barrier along the track on Sunday. Grosjean was trapped inside the Haas car’s flaming wreckage but escaped in scenes that drew awe and admiration around the world.
“There’s going to be some psychological work to be done, because I really saw death coming. When you see images, not even Hollywood is capable of doing that,” Grosjean told French broadcaster TF1 on Tuesday from his hospital bed in Bahrain. “To come out of the flames that day is something that will mark my life forever.”
Grosjean was estimated to be inside the raging furnace for nearly 30 seconds but was lucid enough to figure a way out of a near-death situation.
“I don’t know if the word miracle exists or it can be used, but it wasn’t my time. It did seem much longer than 28 seconds. I saw my visor turning all orange, the flames on the left side of the car,” he said. “I thought about a lot of things — notably about Niki Lauda — and I thought that it wasn’t possible to end up like that, not now. I couldn’t finish my story in Formula 1 like that.”
WATCH | Massive crash at Bahrain Grand Prix splits F1 car in half:
France’s Romain Grosjean crashed heavily into barrier splitting the car in half at the Bahrain F1 race. Grosjean walked away from the crash with minor injuries. 2:59
The late Lauda, a three-time F1 champion, survived but sustained horrific burns to his head after being caught inside his flaming car at the 1976 German GP at the Nuerburgring.
Somehow, Grosjean escaped with only minor burns to the back of his hands and even feels optimistic enough about competing in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP on Dec. 13. His contract expires at the end of this season, and it remains uncertain if he will be given a seat in F1 next year, so that could effectively be his last race in F1.
“I’m very well, given the accident and the circumstances. My hand movements are fine, so that’s the main thing. It’s not very pleasant but it’s not painful, so I can’t complain,” Grosjean said. “There is a feeling of being happy to be alive, of seeing things differently. But also, there is the need to get back in the car, if possible in Abu Dhabi.”
WATCH | Grosjean escapes car after crash at Bahrain GP:
French driver Romain Grosjean escapes his fire-filled car after a heavy crash that tore his car in half at Sunday’s F1 race in Bahrain. 1:03
The 34-year-old Grosjean has three children, the eldest only 7 years old, and he revealed that the fear of them losing their father drove him through the flames.
“For the sake of my children, I told myself I had to get out. I put my hands in the fire and I could clearly feel my hands burning on the chassis,” Grosjean said. “My 5-year-old son Simon is sure I have magical powers and that I have a shield of magic love. He said that’s what protected me, that I managed to fly out of the car. Those are very strong words.”
Grosjean was also moved by the widespread support within F1 and beyond.
“An enormous amount of people showed me signs of affection and that’s something which touched me greatly,” Grosjean said. “Sometimes I have tears in my eyes.”
Formula One driver Romain Grosjean appears to have escaped without serious injury after his car crashed and burst into flames moments after the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 34-year-old French driver slid off track on the first lap and his Haas car burst into flames after being sliced in two by a barrier. Grosjean clambered out with the fire roaring behind him and his race helmet singed.
Moments later, Grosjean was shown on television chatting with the race doctor in the medical car.
Grosjean was then helped out of the car and into an ambulance. He appeared to be shaken but did not immediately seem injured other than a slight limp.
WATCH | Massive crash at Bahrain Grand Prix splits F1 car in half:
France’s Romain Grosjean crashed heavily into barrier splitting the car in half at the Bahrain F1 race. Grosjean walked away from the crash with minor injuries. 2:59
Drivers and team members stood and applauded as they saw the images of Grosjean climbing over the barrier to safety and being sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
It appeared an extraordinary escape after his car was sliced in half upon impact with the barrier.
The accident happened when Grosjean lost grip and slid to the right, where his back wheel clipped the front of Daniil Kvyat’s Alpha-Tauri and flew off into the barrier.
Extraordinary images of the Romain Grosjean accident.<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SkyF1?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SkyF1</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/F1?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#F1</a> | <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/BahrainGP?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#BahrainGP</a> 🇧🇭 <a href=”https://t.co/4F9oDRNLgs”>pic.twitter.com/4F9oDRNLgs</a>
According to the police department of Corvallis, Oregon, slamming into large, stationary objects in a moving vehicle at over 100mph can have catastrophic effects on pretty much everything in the vicinity. On 11-17, the town police responded to a single-car crash in which the vehicle sheared “a power pole off at the base as well as striking and knocking over two trees and a telephone junction box.”
The damage from the collision caused the batteries from the Tesla to enter two different residences by breaking through the windows, one landing on a person’s lap and the second landing on a bed, catching the bedding on fire. A tire was ripped from the car during the collision and struck the second story siding of a nearby apartment complex with such force that it ruptured the water pipes within the wall, destroying the bathroom to the apartment and flooding the downstairs portion of the apartment as well.
No matter what you think of Tesla, let us pause a moment and reflect on the nature of this achievement. In a matter of seconds, a single Model 3 launched a brief career as an electrician, landscaper, and telephone repairman before segueing into home remodeling and plumbing. Truly, a vehicle for our age.
Tesla goes to some trouble to make certain that the battery cells in its vehicles don’t go flying in the event of a collision. But the nature of this impact was obviously sufficient to break whatever solution the manufacturer has developed for dealing with the problem. Previous teardowns of the Model 3 battery pack have shown that the cells are sealed in place with high-strength epoxy.
The problems of an out-of-control vehicle are, of course, scarcely limited to BEVs. I once lived a short distance from a very steep hill that descended over about half a mile down to a three-way intersection. There was a house directly across from where the steep descent met the intersection. I can’t say I was surprised to drive past one day and see what was left of a sedan sitting where the chimney had been. Any one-ton vehicle moving at triple-digit speeds is capable of tremendous destruction.
With that said, there does appear to be a unique problem for BEVs in a situation like this. According to a follow-up post, the Model 3 battery cells can remain hot to the touch and might cause burns for up to 24 hours following involuntary dispersal. That kind of hazard — specifically, the length of time you might be at risk from harm due to leftover detritus — seems a potentially significant issue in certain situations. Tesla’s epoxy solution shows it has considered the problem, but there may be reason to revisit things. It is unclear if individual cells remain at significant risk for secondary ignition after being separated from the main battery for any length of time or if the majority of fire risk is in the immediate period post-impact.
The driver, incidentally, survived, which seems to say something good about Tesla’s crash survival measures, at the least. The vehicle, needless to say, did not.
Even before the emergence of COVID-19, Kate O’Brien was accustomed to her personal game plan going off track.
Sure, she has no idea when she’ll be able to race on the international stage again. And sure, she really has no clue if the Tokyo Paralympics will go ahead next year or be cancelled outright.
But O’Brien, 32, realizes there are no guarantees in life regardless of whether we’re living in a global pandemic.
She is a bobsledder who turned to track cycling after narrowly missing out on qualifying for the 2014 Winter Games. She is a 2016 Summer Olympian. She is a survivor of a horrific bike crash that put her in a coma and left her mom, an emergency room nurse, waiting to hear if her daughter would live or die.
She also has epilepsy, yet another challenge that won’t stop her from chasing her dreams.
“There’s only so much you can control,” the para-world cycling champion says from her training base in Vancouver. “Sometimes, you just need to take a step back and breathe.”
O’Brien couldn’t breathe on her own after she crashed in a track cycling demonstration at Calgary’s Glenmore Velodrome in July 2017. When her rear tire blew, she hit the back of the pacing motorbike in front of her, catapulting her up the track.
Paramedics rushed the unresponsive O’Brien to hospital where she underwent emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain. She also suffered a laundry list of other injuries including a punctured lung, cracked ribs and broken clavicle.
“I flew out to Calgary with the idea I was there to help her mom with organ donation and that kind of thing,” says Meghan Grant, O’Brien’s fiance and former member of the Canadian track cycling team.
“I thought I was going there to say good-bye.”
WATCH | Kate O’Brien sets women’s C4 500m Para-cycling world record:
O’Brien set the world record mark at 35.223 seconds in the women’s C4 500m time trial at 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Milton, Ont. 1:42
Over the next two months, medical professionals warned O’Brien that she would never again walk, never ride a bike or never speak properly. The end of her elite sports career seemed certain.
O’Brien listened to those dire predictions, but she refused to believe them.
“I didn’t like those discussions,” she says. “But it also didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t do those things. It wasn’t so much that I thought I’d still be a competitor in cycling, but I wanted to ride a bike. So why wouldn’t I?”
Upon release from hospital, O’Brien worked tirelessly with her home physiotherapists. They set her bike up on rollers, pushed it toward a wall and formed a human semi-circle in case she toppled.
She stayed upright, and cycling became one of her primary means of transportation on the road to recovery.
“Following her journey from even before her accident, you knew that you were witnessing a very rare athlete,” says Curt Harnett, a three-time Olympic medallist in cycling who served as Canada’s chef de mission at the 2016 Rio Summer Games. “She’s determined, resilient, and she’s a fighter.”
WATCH | O’Brien back in touch with competitive drive after Para-cycling debut:
Olympian Kate O’Brien spoke after setting a women’s C4 500m world record in here Para-cycling Track World Championships debut. 1:47
Not that it was easy. She felt like giving up the fight in the fall of 2018 when she started to experience seizures, leading to an epilepsy diagnosis.
“I refused to accept it,” she says. “I refused to go on medication. I was just so ashamed.”
Her life became smaller and smaller. She didn’t drive. She didn’t ride her bike. She was too scared to fall asleep and too scared to take a bus for fear of a seizure.
‘Change is part of life’
Until one day, she realized she could perhaps cycle and enjoy her life again with help from medication and personal research into how to keep seizures at bay.
“The truth is, stuff isn’t back to normal,” says O’Brien, who recently celebrated a year without a seizure. “But I’ve realized that `normal’ is just a word. My life will never be the same as it was, but that’s not a bad thing. Things don’t need to stay the same all the time.
“I’ve realized that change is part of life, good, bad or ugly, but that’s one of the great things about being human.”
In January, O’Brien represented Canada at the 2020 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.
She won two world titles and set two world records.
“There is a reason she is admired by all who cross her path,” Harnett says. “She is a rockstar athlete with a humble `did I just do that’ attitude. That’s pretty special.”