All things considered, Harriet Etchison is remarkably intact after being involved in an ugly crash with a tri-axle dump truck, and the 70-year-old Monroeville woman is sharing her amazing survival story.
Harriet Etchison told Channel 4 Action News reporter Ari Hait that she was driving on Route 8 in Center Township, Butler County, at about 4 p.m. Thursday when a chain-reaction accident happened in front of Clearview Mall, and the truck wound up on top of her car.
"All I remember is a bunch of metal crashing, and I got up against the guardrail, they said. I couldn't breathe. That's all I could say. I couldn't breathe," Etchison said Friday in her hospital room.
Witness Stephanie Sybert told Hait that there was practically nothing left of the woman's car after the crash.
"Oh, my gosh, I was terrified," said Sybert, "because, when you looked over and saw that the dump truck was almost literally on top of the vehicle, it was like, 'Oh, my goodness.' "
For the next 45 minutes, firefighters worked to free Etchison from the wreckage.
"I was praying, 'Dear God, help me.' That's where it comes from, from the dear Lord," Etchison said.
Another witness, Brena Deninno, said she began "saying a little prayer and hoping, because I could tell there was somebody probably still in there."
The prayers appeared to have paid off, because Etchison was conscious and alert, despite her vehicle being pinned between the dump truck on the passenger side and the rail on the other.
"We had to pull the tri-axle off the vehicle so the fire department could get in there and cut the victim out of the car," said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Timothy Morando.
All the while, Etchison's husband had no idea what was taking place. Roy Etchison was supposed to be with his wife, but he didn't like the restaurant she was going to, so he stayed home.
"About five minutes after she left, I heard the sirens go up and I had a bad feeling. I called the cell phone, and nothing," Roy Etchison said.
Harriet Etchison was eventually removed from her crushed car and flown to a Pittsburgh hospital. She has a few broken ribs and a broken pelvis.
"I just couldn't believe that she actually survived that," Roy Etchison said.
Knowing Harriet Etchison is OK allows the family to joke about what happened.
"I'm the first grandchild, and if I would have lost her ... " Courtney Kendra said.
"Nah, you wouldn't lose me, I'm too mean," Harriet Etchison said.
"You're too stubborn," Kendra replied.
Etchison said she's upset that her golf clubs were ruined in the crash. She also lost her glasses.
"If you can find my glasses, send them to me," she said with a laugh.
Harriet Etchison and all of the victims in the crash are expected to make full recoveries.
Police said they are still looking for the driver of a vehicle that made a left turn in front of Etchison's car and the truck when the accident began.
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