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Two Charlottetown women are pleading with people to clean ice off their cars following separate accidents recently that left both bleeding and shaken.
On Feb. 18, Norma MacEachern was in the front-side passenger seat in a car being driven by her friend when ice flew off a mini-van they met on Brackley Point Road and smashed through their windshield.
MacEachern’s face was left cut and bloodied while her friend suffered minor cuts on her fingers.
“I saw this thing lift off the roof (of the van) and within seconds, it was just bang," MacEachern said, slamming her hands together loudly. “It was a massive piece of ice that flew at us. It just creamed us. It was just an incredibly loud, explosive bang. I’ll never forget that."
Immediately following the impact, MacEachern said her friend calmly pulled the car off the road. A resident who lived nearby heard the crash and came racing over.
The resident invited MacEachern and her friend inside his house to get cleaned up but MacEachern said they were covered in glass from the shattered windshield and she didn’t want to spread it through his house. MacEachern did accept a glass of water.
“I had glass in my mouth and all over me. I literally gargled water out on his front lawn and spit all of the glass in the snowbank. By the grace of God, I didn’t suffer any cuts in my mouth."
MacEachern chose not to go to the hospital or call the police. Instead, she contacted a relative who is a registered nurse to come help.
A similar thing happened the next day to Rachel Gillis as she was driving home from her job as a teacher at Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside.
Gillis was heading to Charlottetown on Route 2 when, just ahead of her, a car pulled out to pass another vehicle near the Silver Bells Christmas Tree Farm in Springvale.
“I saw the car pull out; I saw the ice fly off the car and I closed my eyes," Gillis said. “The next thing I knew there was glass everywhere. My hands were bloody and I could feel the glass in my face. I still don’t know how I pulled off the road. I am incredibly fortunate that I didn’t swerve into traffic or off the road and down the embankment."
Two Good Samaritans saw it happen and pulled over immediately. The two men helped Gillis get safely off the road, called 911 and stayed with her. Paramedics with Island EMS had to carefully remove Gillis from the vehicle because of all of the shattered glass.
“I was covered in glass and scared to move," Gillis said. “It was incredibly terrifying. I am so grateful (the two men) were there. I don’t remember what they said to me but I do remember they were so reassuring."
In Gillis’ case, the ice that struck her didn’t hit the windshield directly. It hit the front of her vehicle and slid up and smashed the windshield on the driver’s side.
Gillis said other than some cuts on her hands she didn’t sustain any injuries.
MacEachern's injuries include a bump behind her jaw that continues to give her pain.
“I’m going to get it checked out with an X-ray just to make sure there is nothing going on with my jaw because I’m finding it hard to open my mouth fairly wide."
Since the accident, MacEachern said she has had trouble sleeping and with driving in the car, fearing that it would happen again.
Gillis said she has moments where she is overcome with emotion.
Both wanted to tell their stories to The Guardian, hoping that an article will serve as a message to Islanders to clean all snow and ice from their vehicles.
“I get the fact that people’s lives are busy. This is a warning for people ... this is what can happen. It only takes a few minutes to clean off your car," MacEachern said.
Gillis said people simply aren’t aware in many cases the kind of damage ice on a vehicle can cause when it flies off on roads and highways.
“It takes two minutes," Gillis said, referring to cleaning off a vehicle. “For the safety of yourself and others, I implore people to take the time ... to take two minutes. Please take a moment, you don’t know the damage it can cause."
In neither case did the vehicle the ice flew off of stop.
However, RCMP Const. Jamie Parsons said in many cases the person driving the vehicle that releases the debris either doesn’t realize it happened or that damage was caused.
“Very often the car or truck the ice comes off of has no clue whatsoever," Parsons said, adding that unless there is a third-party witness who gets a licence plate number or can identify the make of the vehicle there’s not much police can do.
Dave Stewart is The Guardian's municipal reporter.