A Stuart woman is advising motorists to wear a seatbelt, honor auto recalls and stay alert when traveling – especially through construction zones. Murphy Brown said all three contributed to a good outcome for her when she had an accident with what she describes as a “boulder” that she estimated was about the size of two cinderblocks.
“This was a freak incident and shows you can never be too careful. Who would expect to tangle with a huge rock,” she asked rhetorically days after a boulder rolled into the path of her Toyota.
Brown recalled that around 11:27 a.m. on Dec. 27, she was traveling through the construction area of a project to four-lane U.S. 58, between Meadows of Dan and Stuart. Her travel was cut short “at the location of a bulldozer” when “a boulder rolled down the hill and into the path of my car.
“I didn’t see the boulder until it disappeared under my front-end bumper. Both air bags deployed, and the windshield was shattered. My car ended up in the middle of the two lanes,” Brown said.
From her position, she was unable to see whether traffic was approaching “and was unsure if I should exit the vehicle with the amount of traffic on the road. Two women came to my assistance and the road filled with traffic,” Brown said. “This is a busy main route with a large volume of traffic. Two state troopers and deputies arrived, along with an ambulance and fire truck. It was a massive crowd and traffic was stopped.”
Brown surmised that a bulldozer working on top of the hill dislodged the boulder. She said she was told by a project engineer at the scene that “they were planning to close this lane but hadn’t done it yet, and it was 11:30 a.m. There were usually spotters along the road to watch for falling rocks, but they were not present either.”
Once her car, a 2003 Toyota Corolla, was loaded onto the wrecker, Brown said it was evident that transmission fluid and antifreeze “had leaked, and was all over the road. The wrecker driver came back with some stuff to put down on the road where the fluid was. Apparently, the under carriage was severely damaged when my car ran over the boulder.”
She recalled the accident prompted a lane closure, and noted that vehicles “piled up in large numbers, 30 to 50 at a time, to be escorted by the Branch lead truck. You can imagine the problem this caused,” Brown wrote in her statement to the Insurance/Claims Department of Branch Civil Headquarters, the company that was awarded the contract for building the four-lane highway.
“A gentleman that was behind me told the state trooper he saw the whole thing and was willing to give his contact information, but the trooper told him it wasn’t necessary” because “it was pretty cut and dried,” Brown said.
Thankfully, “I was not injured badly just sore, but during the night I was bothered even more with soreness. When I awoke the next day, I was very sore,” Brown said, and she decided to visit the emergency department at Sovah Health. There, she was x-rayed and prescribed medication. Brown also planned to visit her physician after the holidays.
A representative with Branch arranged a car rental, Brown said, adding that her car was totaled during the incident.
Brown noted that several factors helped protect her during the crash.
“My Toyota was recalled for faulty air bags, and if I ignored the recall, this could have been a very different story,” Brown said. “This also shows the importance of wearing your seat belt. When the boulder disappeared under my front end, the car immediately stopped dead, and the air bags deployed.”
But, she said, it is not an experience she hopes to encounter again.
“The worst was the powder in the air bags. Getting hit with an air bag is a real experience,” Brown said.
Lisa Price Hughes, resident engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), said she was not aware of the accident and therefore unable to comment.
Jeff Humphries, of Branch Civil, could not immediately be reached for comment.