Officer’s quick action saves property, possibly lives

Published 4:03 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When I crested the hill on Shelby County 68 in Alabaster at about 5:20 p.m. on April 4, essentially the only thing on my mind was the charged Pelham City Council meeting I was about to attend.

But as U.S. 31 came into my view, my attention immediately shifted to the bizarre scene unfolding in front of the Sonic restaurant near Pelham’s southern city limits. Even though rush hour was in full swing, the traffic on 31 was abnormally heavy.

As I got closer, I soon saw why.

I was awestruck to see a Ford Explorer completing perfect circles in reverse in the middle of the busy four-lane highway.

“What in the world is that person doing?” I thought to myself.

After pulling into a nearby parking lot, I grabbed my camera and ran to the edge of the road to get a closer look. It was then I realized nobody was in the haywire SUV.

I later learned the good-hearted driver of the Explorer had pulled the vehicle into the median of U.S. 31 in an attempt to keep a few children from running out into heavy traffic while chasing a ball.

But when the driver exited the car, she failed to put the SUV’s transmission into “park,” and the vehicle took off under its own power when she stepped out.

As a journalist, I have been to many traffic incident scenes, but I have never seen a crowd gather like I did that day. Dozens of onlookers on their way home from work pulled off the road and stood on the edge of the highway to witness the outcome of the scenario.

Because the driver pulled the Explorer’s steering wheel all the way to one side when she fell out of the vehicle, the car was performing perfect circles at about 10 or 15 miles per hour.

I was amazed that the Pelham police officers on the scene were able to clear a perimeter around the out-of-control SUV before the vehicle struck anything or anyone.

But even though the car appeared to be circling in a set pattern, it could have easily changed course and barreled into the onlookers, a building or even the gas station a few yards from the scene.

With the Explorer still rolling, Pelham police officer Jeremy Eddy put himself in harm’s way and approached the vehicle.

After one failed attempt, Eddy was able to grab the driver-side door handle, pull the door open and jump head-first into the driver’s seat and disengage the vehicle’s ignition.

The crowd on the side of the road began clapping and cheering as other officers gathered around the winded Eddy.

It was, without a doubt, one of the most bizarre accidents I have ever seen. But it could have easily ended in tragedy had the vehicle struck an onlooker or the gas station.

Because of the quick actions of Eddy and the other officers, no property was damaged and nobody was injured.

Thank you, officer Eddy, for helping to bring a peaceful conclusion to what could have been a deadly incident.