Saturday, September 23, 2006

When the death rides in front of you

By Kirsten Nour Namskau

It was in 1975 we should go for a holiday in the Norwegian mountains by car and caravan. We travelled around and had a grate time, and were on our way back to Oslo when we should go down a mountain where the road slings down the mountain as a snake.
Just when we were on the top, after several swings to come to the top of the mountain, we took a brake before we started our way down on the other side, with like as many swings down.
We had just started the first swing when my husband said: “Oh, Kirsten . . . . I think the brake is gone.”
He tried to stop the care with the hand-brake, but it was not strong enough to stop the car with the caravan, but enough for him to put the car in first gear, so he could use the gear as a brake too.
The road is rather narrow, but I told my husband to go over in the other lane to let the car behind pass on my side. (right side)
My husband (Johnny) did so and I winked the car behind up to my side and made stop-signal to him.
I shouted out the window to him: “Please go down as fast as possible, and call the ‘road-security-force’, we are without brake and go only by hand-brake. When the hand-brake is finish, we will go off the road. Then we need all the help we can get ! “
I continued: “Hurry, before someone comes up in this lane.”
He understood in a flash and continued down as fast as he could.
We took the first swing and tried to give signals to those behind, not to pass.
It had gone only 5 minutes when we saw a police-helicopter came over the top of the mountain, followed by another helicopter from NRK. (The Norwegian radio news company)
At the same time three police-cars came up behind us, one car right behind us, and one car in the left lane to prevent anyone from passing us and another one behind them again.
Johnny held so low speed as he could using the low gear and the hand-brake.
The police called in a high-sounder: “We are called to escort you down the mountain. We know you are without brake and are using only hand-brake.”
They continued: “We have stopped all traffic at the foot of the mountain, so you will not meet anyone coming up. Take the time you need and don’t worry about anything else than to concentrate about the driving.
Try to cut the swings as much as possible, to avoid getting a toss on the caravan.”
We took the next swing in slow speed.
It was 8 swings we should take before we were down.
The police called from behind: “We have both fire-engine and ambulance at the foot of the mountain, ready to come up in the minute you go off the road.”
Now we had taken four swings and we started to hope that we would reach the bottom before the hand-brake got finish.
Suddenly the first gear got loose and we took a push of speed. Johnny fast put the car in second gear, but now we took a little faster speed, but still we had the hand-brake.
The police called from behind: “Keep control, cut the swings, and keep the steer wheel steady.”
We took the next swing just as the hand-brake dropped. Johnny shouted: “We are without hand-brake, Kirsten.”
I shouted to my two children in the backseat: “Get down on the floor and put you arms over your head and stay there until I tell you to come up !”
At that time it was no seat-belt in the back-seat of the cars. So I figured that on the floor they would get less push when we drove off and would not be thrown around.
My children immediately understood the emergency and followed order.
My youngest asked: “Is it dangerous, mom?”
I answered: “Yes, darling. It is a little dangerous, but with the help of God, everything will be OK.”
The police called out to Johnny: “Pump the hand-brake . . . .pump the hand-brake !”
Johnny pumped the hand-brake and then it appeared as if it had some more to go on.
We had two swings left and the police called from behind: “You will make it now, even if you go off the road here. Only keep calm. Don’t loose the control.”
The car took more speed and Johnny shouted to me: “Kirsten, you take the hand-brake and pump. I have to keep the steer wheel.”
I took the hand-brake and pumped . . . rested and pumped . . . rested and pumped.
Right before the swing the hand-brake was totally finish.
The gear got loose and Johnny fast put it in third gear.
We had one swing left.
The speed rose to 40 km pr. Hour . . . 50 ~ 60 km/hr
We came to the last swing . . .in 100 km/hr.
The police called from behind: “Cut the swing and keep the steer wheel steady. You have a long strait road in front of you after this last swing. ”
We took the swing and could see the plain road in front of us, but the speed rose to 120 km/hr.
Suddenly the caravan got a toss and turned over and drew the car with in the process. Both the car and the caravan were on the one side wheels.
The police called from behind: “Hold the steer wheel steady . . . hold the steer wheel steady. You will make it.”
We could see that both the fire-engine and the ambulance people run to their cars at made themselves ready to come in the minute we tipped over.
But the caravan got down again in strait position and so the car, but only for to tip over to the other side.
Again, both the caravan and the car were on one-side wheels.
We could see the police tried to bring the queue of cars to back, since we came all the time closer to them in high speed.
Again the caravan and the car came down on all wheels but continued to wobble a couple of times before finally Johnny said: “Kirsten, I think I have control now . . . I think I am in control now.”
The police called from behind: “You made it . . . you made it . . . congratulation . . . only let the car run until it stops by itself. We are right behind.”

We all came to immediate after-shock emergency, also the children.


Freddie said...

Thanks goodness. Just reading about this was stressing me out! Whew!

Anonymous said...

close call!
but god is on your side

Mrs_Who said...

Holy cow! That had me all stressed out. I'm glad you and your family made it down safely.

QofD said...

HOLY COW! Wow, I am glad you made it down just fine. I could not imagine going through that!

Anonymous said...

I bet you have a paranoia about brake failure every time you get into a car. Every bad experience scars our psyche. My wife has a pathological fear of fire because her house burn't down when she was a young girl.

Anonymous said...

Your husband was very good to keep his wits about him and handle the car all the way down. What a hero!

tony said...

This reminds me of a story while driving through the mountains in France. We'd rented a little Renault Alliance (very small car) and were driving when my Dad nudged me and said, "Ok, Tony...get out some more Francs, we have to pay another toll. My Mom and sisters were sleeping in the back seat. As we neared the toll booth, my Dad screams, "OHMYGOSH, the brakes are OUT! Needless to say, my Mom and sisters are now wide awake. To make a long story short, the car was a manual transmission, and he had his foot on the clutch. WHEW!

Kirsten N. Namskau said...

Thank you for the comments, friends.
Lexcen: Strange enough I don't have special fear of that, but I always look forwards to that I have equipments in the car for ANY situation. Fire-extinguisher, towing-rope etc.etc.
Hammer: Yes, it got all shown in TV over & over again for weeks and he became the hero of the year.
(It almost got to his head though...when they called him "agent 007")