In a matter of seconds
Four lives changed in the wake of a tragic event
February 18, 2015
Four minds, four hearts and four bonds that could never be broken. A memory that will never fade from their minds. On this night, the lives of four innocent girls nearly diminished as they made their way down the road to pain, heartache and fear. Beyond the joyful thoughts, never-ending laughs and friendly remarks, a dark shadow covers the event that will never be forgotten.
It was a regular night. Almost repetitive as juniors Paige Gibbert, Carley Wallace, Madison Winchell and senior Lauren Gibbert piled into a vehicle while reminiscing on the day’s activities. Weekends are for spending time with friends and clearing away the stress from the long week, but never would they have imagined that evening turning into a nightmare.
“We had been mudding because it had rained, and that’s why the three of us were in the front seat,” Wallace said. “We were just going to grab my bag from my house.”
The driver, Winchell, was making her way to Wallace’s house as the rain covered the road with water. Within seconds, the car hydroplaned and spun out of control into a telephone pole.
“I remember spinning side to side and I was thinking ‘Oh my God, what is happening?’ Something told me we were going to wreck which scared me to death,” Winchell said. “It’s just like your life flashes before your eyes in a matter of seconds.”
The unexpected crash on Nov. 21 frightened the city of Texarkana as the news spread quickly that the girls were in critical condition.
“I remember seeing the truck turn, and the front coming around the back. Waking up, I thought it was a dream, and I tried to move, but the steering wheel was on my chest,” Paige Gibbert said. “I originally was in the front, middle seat, but I slid over into the driver’s area. I was in the splits, and it was uncomfortable. I couldn’t feel my leg.”
Shocked but more so scared for what was yet to come, the girls spoke to each other in order to make sure everyone was conscious from the impact.
“I woke up at one point, and I think Carley was screaming out prayers. I was going in and out of consciousness, and I remember waking up and there was a seat belt wrapped around my neck,” Lauren Gibbert said. “I remember people hovering over me, and then I don’t remember anything else.”
Screaming for help, Paige Gibbert, attempted to wake up her sister. Without a response, the girls thought the worst had come for Lauren Gibbert.
“I was really just screaming for her, and she wouldn’t answer me,” Paige Gibbert said. “I thought she was dead, and I was really scared. She’s my best friend.”
Confined and unable to move in the vehicle, the girls yelled as loud as they could, hoping someone could hear them. Little did they know that the crash had thankfully been witnessed by a bystander.
“Right after we stopped, it was like time did too. It was so dark and quiet, and we were screaming for help, but it was like nobody was listening,” Winchell said. “It was the scariest moment I’ve ever been in for sure. Just the thought of us all not being okay made things even worse.”
Once help arrived, Wallace was comforted by a family friend and then was taken out of the truck. The other three were stuck inside for the next 45 minutes.
“She reached in the glass and held my hand. It calmed me down a little bit,” Wallace said. “I remember falling into my mom’s arms at the wreck and feeling her shaking all over. Seeing the fear in my dads’ eyes, I had never seen my dad that scared before, but actually seeing him was really different.”
All four girls were safely removed from the vehicle and taken to the hospital. Still in serious pain, they attempted to make each other laugh to forget about the injuries.
“I woke up in the ambulance, and I remember Madison was holding my arm. I was thinking about where everyone was, and I was trying to figure out how we crashed,” Lauren Gibbert said. “I tried to lighten the mood when we were in the ambulance and crack a joke to Madison about her driving skills.”
The arrival at the hospital was just the beginning of what was ahead for these four girls. Separation, shock and pain filled the air as the girls were treated for their injuries.
“When I was in my room in the hospital, my dad came in there to tell my mom the update on Lauren, and I knew it was bad because he looked like he was about to cry. He was bringing my mom into the hall to tell her, but then he came in the room and told her that Lauren’s neck was broken,” Paige Gibbert said. “I wanted to know, and I just started bawling. I couldn’t stop crying because I have never been so scared. I was really worried about her, and I just wanted to see her. They wouldn’t let me leave.”
Suffering from numerous injures, the girls still kept a smile on their faces. Winchell came out of the crash with both broken hips and pelvis, her right femur, pubic bone and rib. She is currently recovering from the accident and should be back at school soon. Wallace broke her vertebrae in two places and her ankle. Paige experienced a collapsed lung, and Lauren broke her neck, ankle and wrist.
“Some days are harder than others. Sometimes my mind just starts thinking of how it’s my fault because I was the driver, even though I know it wasn’t anybody’s fault. I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Winchell said. “I think we’ve all done very well considering the circumstances. We’ve had our fights, but it has not changed the relationship between us at all.”
Paige Gibbert returned to school shortly after the wreck, but Lauren Gibbert and Wallace didn’t return until after Christmas break.
“Now, I don’t take anything for granted, and I always tell my parents I love them because you never know what could happen,” Wallace said. “There is no way we could have made it through that wreck without God, just looking at the pictures of the truck. I would never want to go through that again.”
The support system offered from friends and family has given the girls a positive outlook.
“I think that having so many people that care, and so many visitors has helped me the most,” Lauren Gibbert said. “I love hearing them tell me how much they are happy and that we’re still here; it just keeps me happy.”
Without God on their side, the girls feel like none of this would have been possible.
“God was really protecting us because the doctors said that everyone who has the same break in my neck as me was either paralyzed or dead. I am so lucky,” Lauren Gibbert said. “”
Almost three months since the night of the crash, the bond between the girls has continued to grow and become stronger everyday.
“We’re still best friends. I think the thing that has helped me the most are friends and family,” Winchell said. “My boyfriend and all my friends have been amazing every step of the way with me.”
Through all of the tears and heartache, the girls couldn’t be more grateful for their health after the accident.
“It’s something that taught me more than hurt me. It taught me that some people can’t even go to school, so I should be grateful I get to come everyday, and I’m healthy enough to do that,” Paige Gibbert said. “It taught me to be grateful for the little things.”