Shining A Light on the Dark Continent

The Four-Car Pileup — It Was Bound to Happen

People everywhere claim they have the worst drivers, and although Dave has driven in Italy and other dangerous places, it seems perhaps Eastern Africa truly does.

He and the team were enjoying a perilous, but scenic drive from Mbale to Kampala, Uganda, taking in the sites such as the dam that begins the Nile River and seeing cows, goats and other livestock when as Dave puts it, “the rest of the day happened.”

The team was in two cars. Dave and the Civil Affairs battalion commander were in the second car, two cars back from the first team car. “Our driver was so focused on not losing the first car that I knew an accident was coming,” Dave said. “Our driver was darting onto the center line of the two-lane road to pass vehicles. I was concerned we were going to have a head-on collision.”

The red car is wedged under the car Dave was riding in during a four-car collision.
The red car is wedged under the car Dave was riding in during a four-car collision.

About 25 kilometers (about 15.5 miles) out of Kampala, the car in front of Dave’s stopped short and his car, tires screeching, managed to miss the car in front by about a half inch. Dave was in the middle of the back seat, hands on both front seats with his head down, bracing for the impact he knew was coming.

“I stayed down, waiting for the sure rear-end (impact) as I heard more tires screech and sure enough, impact, more tires screeching and another impact,” he said. “Our vehicle was stuck on top of the car behind us.”

No one was injured in the accident, but the team did not stick around. When traveling, the team is not in uniform but it was obvious they were Americans. Standard operating procedure requires the teams to not linger in unknown or unsecure areas where crowds could gather. That was the situation in this suburban setting.

“As soon as we knew we were okay, we piled into the first car and took off. A big crowd was already gathering and we thought we better get moving,” Dave said. He and an Army sergeant squeezed into the front bucket seat of the first vehicle and the car drove away. They rode without the benefit of seat belts because the belt would not fit around both adults so Dave said there were “lots of prayers for no more accidents,” Dave said. The driver was left behind to deal with the police.

Dave was shook up, but not really scared, even with the crowd forming. It did take several weeks of massage therapy to loosen up his back again, though.

“I was just happy that no one was seriously injured,” he said.

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