If one could bottle luck, slap a label on it and sell it in stores, we’d line up to buy it if it came from one Kaleb Whitby. This 27-year-old farmer from Kennewick, Washington likely already fancied himself a pretty fortunate guy, on account of having a hot wife, a cute toddler and another on the way. But early Saturday morning, he got a dose of good fortune that stunned rescuers and is making international headlines.
“Thank God I’m still alive,” Whitby told reporters on the scene of the massive pileup that involved more than 20 vehicles and some 100 people on the Beaver State’s I-84. “Now, I’ve got to go figure out why.”
In the moments before the crash, Whitby had about 100 miles to go on his trip to Council, Idaho, where he was scheduled to pick up two truckloads of cattle at 9am Mountain Time. Along the way, he and fellow drivers contented with black ice, heavy winds, fog and frigid weather – all of which made for some seriously hazardous road conditions. As he headed up a slight hill in to a curve, Whitby started to pass the semi-truck in front of him, but the thick fog convinced him otherwise. He backed off the semi continued ahead.
Just around the next curve, however, Whitby encountered that same big rig once again. This time, it was jackknifed across the interstate. Whitby swerved in a frantic effort to miss the semi. Instead, his Chevy Silverado pickup truck slammed into the semi’s trailer, flipped around and stalled leaving Whitby with the passenger side of his ride facing oncoming traffic.
As if that wasn’t enough, Whitby likely was sending a message to the upstairs when he saw it – The gleam of a second set of semi truck headlights boring down on him. Confronted with a wall of steel, the driver of the second truck also swerved, hitting the guardrail and bringing his rig to a stop with the two trailers side-by-side.
“I was so close to both trucks that I could touch them at the same time,” Whitby later told People magazine. “It was pretty unreal.”
We’re guessing that by now, Whitby was practicing his pearly gates plea. But if you’re number’s not up yet, well – it just ain’t up. You couldn’t build a beer can out of what’s left of Whitby’s truck – a mass of crumpled steel sandwiched between the two semis. But incredibly, Whitby survived with barely a scratch. With the steering column lodged in his right hip, he managed to reach his trusty Leatherman pocketknife, cut away the seatbelt straps and climb out the wreckage.
Two Band-Aids and an icepack later, Whitby was on his way back home to his relieved bride with a bit of instant fame and a whole new appreciation for life.
Wintertime can make for dicey conditions on roadways nationwide. From all of us here at E3 Spark Plugs, take extra precautions when driving in potentially dangerous conditions. And if you’ve got a great survival story of your own, post it on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.