The Untimely Demise of 1995 Firehawk #523
On 1996-09-19, 1995 Firehawk #523 was hit from behind by a negligent driver. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt and only three vehicles were involved despite heavy, rush-hour traffic. We healed but the Firehawk was a total loss.
Basically, here's what happened: There were four lanes of traffic and a center turn lane. Headed east in the left lane, I came to a complete stop behind a Geo Metro that was stuck halfway in the left turn lane. (Backed-up westbound traffic was stacking up in the lane too early and blocking it.) Eastbound traffic in the right lane was moving fast and close together enough such that getting around the Geo was unsafe so I was contented to wait in the left lane. After maybe ten seconds (which seemed like forever in that crummy traffic) we were struck from behind. This started us spinning counter-clockwise. At about 40° of rotation we bounced off the Geo and completed the next 130° in the turn lane. The hatch flew open — I remember looking up into the clear blue sky — and everything in the back flew out from the centrifugal force. The 4WD SUV that hit us continued past us after finally getting on the brakes.
The only tire marks were mine. The SUV driver clearly attempted to maneuver instead of brake. My car took the brunt of the damage so the Geo didn't go far or fast. The rear seatback dislodged and hit my friend on the back of his head. Surprisingly, no glass was broken.
After seeing the Firehawk at the body shop the next day, it appears that the SUV was making a lane change. The impact sheared everything to the right of the license plate as can be seen in the photos. She probably wasn't paying attention and going too fast for traffic conditions until it was too late and tried to swerve. Close inspection reveals a contact point at a level where my tail was not in the air (I was not braking heavily…or at all for that matter — I was stopped!) and her nose wasn't diving (meaning she wasn't braking either). Parts were bent upward!
As it turns out, the SUV driver's insurance had lapsed for failure to receive payment. Later hearsay was that my insurance company managed to get 50% of the Firehawk settlement out of her, personally. One presumes she was on the hook for 100% of the damage to her truck. My insurance deflected a claim by the Geo.
After some looking, I found a used Porsche 928 as a replacement. It was the absolute most I could afford after the settlement.
My conclusion remains that the driver at fault dodged two bullets: 1) The Geo protected us from oncoming traffic in which the severe yaw would have put my passenger into mortal danger and 2) no one was in my backseat who would have surely been hospitalized for a long period had they survived.