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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Four students count themselves lucky to survive car accident in SC Mountains a year ago

The winds howled and fat drops of rain slapped against the road as current seniors Reilly Bowker and Ryan Hoag, alumnus Ryan Patrick and senior Aneesa Walden, who no longer attends the school, whipped through the Santa Cruz Mountains in Patrick’s car, on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014.

The four decided to go out for a drive out of pure boredom, unaware of the possible consequences. They were not intoxicated in any way.

At 4 a.m., the infamous Devil’s Hour, they drove through downtown Saratoga and then up Big Basin Way and into the mountains. They were unfamiliar with the silent, windy roads.  Patrick was driving, Bowker was in the passenger’s seat, and Walden and Hoag were sitting in the back.

The stark darkness also disorientated them. Suddenly, the vehicle was rolling downhill as the road veered sharply to the right. Unaware of the sharp turn, Patrick had been caught off guard and the car plummeted off the side of the road.

“When we took that turn, all you could see was the ground disappear from beneath you,” Bowker said.

After driving off the road, they hit multiple trees, a lucky break that softened the impact of the crash. Even so, the entire back and side of Patrick’s car had caved in. It was totalled. Walden’s decision to move to the middle seat might have saved her from extensive injuries or even death, as that part of the car was smashed in.

“Everyone says things like this happen really fast, but for me, time slowed down for a little bit,” Hoag said. “Everyone was screaming and it lasted a long time before we hit the trees.”

According to Bowker, Walden’s neck was “slashed, red and covered with blood.”

“She was like, ‘How bad is it?’ and I told her that it wasn’t that bad because I didn’t want to freak her out,” Bowker said.

At first, the group was unable to escape the damaged vehicle because of the heavy rainfall, muffling darkness and their injuries. They learned later at the hospital that Reilly and Patrick had minor concussions while Hoag suffered from heavily bruised ribs. Afraid of the consequences that would follow if they contacted the police or their parents, Bowker called her twin sister, Maddie Bowker, to come get them.

Maddie initially thought that they were joking, but when Walden began panicking on the phone, Maddie realized the severity of the situation.

“When I got there, I was really pissed off at them for doing something so stupid like sneaking out and driving really fast,” Maddie said. “Patrick didn't want to call the cops and we argued about that for like 10 minutes.”

Maddie remembers the emotional roller-coaster she went through as she picked them up and drove them to the hospital.

“I was happy to know that they were alive, but I also was also angry at them,” Maddie said. “But in the end I was mostly worried about Walden and everyone else.”

Reilly recalls the emotional confrontation between Walden and her family at the hospital.

“I first saw Aneesa’s dad and little sister at the hospital, and I remember how emotional it was because her sister was crying so hard that she couldn’t even look at her because she was scared for her,” Reilly said. “It was crazy, very scary.”

At the hospital, the four students were separated into different rooms where each one was interviewed by police.

“I thought they would understand because we were scared teenagers, but they told us that there was an investigation going on,” Reilly said.

According to Reilly, earlier in the night of their crash, another accident involving a van occurred near where they had plummeted off the road. The passenger in the van died in the accident, but the driver fled. The twist: The accident occurred during a botched drug deal.

According to Reilly, “pounds and pounds of meth and weed” were in the van. Police knew the four students weren’t involved in the first accident, but it was an odd coincidence.

In the end, Reilly said she got into trouble with her parents for not calling 911 after the accident and sneaking out in the middle of the night.

To this day, Reilly and Hoag, who are very superstitious, feel lucky that they came out of the the accident with only minimal injuries. Reilly has become more paranoid and cautious when driving late in the night. Hoag lost one of his shoes the night of the crash. He keeps the other one as a form of good luck.

“Gut feelings are a real thing; we all felt like we were in danger before the crash, but we just went on with it because we never thought anything like that could ever actually happen to us,” Hoag said. “Honestly, I should've just gone to sleep that night.”

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