Swiss RTC

Glaubenbielen Pass - Friday 11 September 2015

We were on our way home from a trip to Lake Garda and the day's route was to take us from our overnight stop at Meirengen to Nancy. We left the Hotel accompanied by Ian Bruce and set off in sunny, if not a little chilly, conditions. After a brief stop at Lungern to brim our tanks we headed up to the Glaubenbielen Pass where we met others from our group who had stopped at a viewpoint. After a few photos we decided we would continue and see them at our next stop.

The following photo could well have been our last because a few minutes later at 10.00am we rounded a sharp left hand bend to find a Subaru Forester coming the other way and on our side of the road! It all happened so quickly and due to the nature of the road we had no escape route other than over the side!

I remember thinking that the collision was inevitable, but strangely had no thoughts about "This is it!" or "This is going to hurt". In that split second the Subaru hit the nosecone, rode up and 'surfed' the engine block before finally coming to rest against the FIA rollover bar above Maggie's head. The impact lifted the rear of the 7 and spun it round to the left. Maggie was screaming "I can't breathe" and I looked across to her and she was facing me with her right ear pressed against the head restraint and her left ear just a few centimetres away from the underside of the Subaru's bumper. There was not enough headroom for me to exit the 7 and we both desperately tried to push, in vain, the vehicle away from us. Maggie was concerned that the Subaru would drop and crush us and I was more concerned over the strong smell of fuel (the fuel rail had been severed).

Suddenly, the Subaru rolled back down the engine bay to the position shown in the following photos. This was no accident as Ian who was in front of us on the road heard the crash and turned round (Ian later told us that on turning round all he could see was our left rear wheel and part of the rollover bar and was certain we'd be dead) and it was he and the other driver who managed to lift the Subaru by the front right-hand side wheelarch enough to let it slide away from us. At this point I remember the other driver appearing on my side of the car, before I had got out, completely distressed and his actions and tone of his voice (although speaking in German) indicating his guilt. I simply shouted at him "You Bastard!". Those were the only words I said to him as I was now concerned for Maggie who was complaining of pain in her left arm and back and unable to get out of the car.

The others, by now, had come round the bend to be met by a pretty unpleasant sight, I remember some of them directing traffic and above all Sue Horseman who spent much time comforting Maggie. Because of her injuries it was decided that she should remain in the car until medical assistance arrived. I was just wandering around in a state of shock trying to understand how such an incident could have happened to us.

The police arrived around 30 minutes after the accident (called, I understand, by the other driver) and I was questioned, breathalysed and asked to hand over my driving licence and passport and told to report to the police station later to give a statement. The next thing I was aware of was an Air Ambulance landing a hundred or so metres away and the paramedics now tending to Maggie.

Once Maggie had been extracted from the car and taken by stretcher on the back of a pick-up truck to the helicopter, I accompanied her on the flight to Luzern Kantonsspital.

Upon arrival, the time is now 10.40am, Maggie is taken immediately to an emergency room and once all her clothes have been cut away she is sent for a CT scan, X-ray and also has an ECG. Meanwhile, I speak to our insurance company and the police before I get checked over as my neck is beginning to feel sore. Fortunately, Maggie has no broken bones and is just battered and bruised. We are then both discharged and we explain to the nurse that we have to get to the Police Station with Maggie wearing only a pair of shoes, can they help? The nurse trundles off and returns with a pair of surgical knickers, a pair of white hospital porter's trousers (which Maggie can put on but not do up the zip as they were way too small for her, an old white t-shirt and a white dressing gown that also doesn't fit!. So Maggie says to me "I feel like an extra from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". Trust us Brits to find some humour during an awful experience! The hospital kindly arrange for a taxi to take us to the police station at Sarnen some 20 minutes away, where we arrive at around 6pm to make our statements and collect my passport and driving licence.

During the time we were at the hospital our friends kindly emptied our car of most of our possessions and handed them to the police for our collection later in the day and a few photos were taken of the remains of our 7.

Finally, after giving our statements individually, the police tell us that the other driver 'has apologised' and that they have made a hotel reservation in town if we would like it. It is now 8pm and we are very grateful for their foresight and the fact that they also organised a taxi to take us there.

We tell the hotel about our day and they provide us with a meal but we are informed that we cannot stay the following night as the hotel is full for a conference. We finally retire to our room and I call our travel insurance company who advise that unless it is a medical emergency we will have to call on Monday morning. I then call the breakdown recovery services and they advise that they only cover breakdowns and not accidents. Feeling abandoned in our predicament we eventually retire to bed still feeling rather dazed and shocked as well as battered and bruised. Unsurprisingly it is not the best night's sleep!

Saturday morning dawns and at breakfast the hotel owner tells us our accident has made the local paper, he tears the page out and gives it to us, and it is also on the police website. The headline on the newspaper reads 'Injured after a violent head-on collision'.

After breakfast we return to our room to formulate a plan to repatriate ourselves to the UK. Maggie phones around to find a hire car company that will allow us to make a one way trip to Calais (24 hour hire is just CHF190, but one way charge is CHF485!). Our good friends Steve and Jenny Walker kindly offer to come and collect us from the car rental drop-off point at Calais Frethun Gare the following day. We leave the car rental in Luzern at 1pm and head off to see the car at a garage in Kerns. We take a few photos and strip the car of all tools and other sundries as at this stage I am concerned the car will be written off and not repatriated.

We finally leave Kerns around 2.30pm on Saturday 12 September for the 500 mile journey to Calais. We arrive, just in time to avoid a further day's hire charge, at 12.55pm via an overnight stop at Bar-Le-Duc where we are met by Steve and Jenny who transport us home.

We'll not bore you with all the ups and downs of insurance claims, but suffice to say that that car was repatriated on Monday 28 September and delivered to Andy Belcher at Tech 7 who carried out the necessary repairs for the insurance. The total cost was 10,303.47 (the car had an agreed value of 20,000) and this basically included a long-front, new front suspension, front wings and nosecone, bonnet, scuttle and sideskins, radiator and fan plus a host of miscellaneous items such as headlamp, Brooklands set up, 7 grille, steering rack, dashboard etc.

As part of the rebuild we decided to have a new paint scheme, new dampers and springs and a new gearset. I finally collected the car from Andy on Monday 28 December, just 3 months after he received it. The insurance company approved a new agreed value of 27,500 as a result of the repairs and upgrades. We were, however, still waiting 9 months later for payment of uninsured losses such as chiropractor treatments for Maggie, replacement clothes that were cut off (!), excesses paid and SatNav replacement etc, not all insurance companies are quick!

To say we were very lucky is an understatement, despite Maggie suffering from muscle spasms in her back and a large haematoma in her arm, someone somewhere was looking over us that day!

Grand Italian Tour