Tom Rasmussen knew, in that awful moment when he rounded the corner and saw the oncoming car in his lane, that the two vehicles would collide.
He just wanted to make sure it wasn’t head on.
Rasmussen, a Baker City man who was driving to a family reunion on the Oregon Coast Aug. 3 with his fiancee, Barbara Borello, her son, Ronnie, 13, and Rasmussen’s son, Shawn, 14, all from Baker City, managed to avoid the kind of crash he feared most.
But Tom, 50, was still shocked by the damage inflicted on the 2010 Ford Focus four-door sedan — and on three of the people riding in it.
“I didn’t think it would end up as mangled as it was,” Tom said of the car, which belongs to Barbara, 47. “It’s not what I pictured in my mind. I tried to deflect it as best as I could.”
The Focus was totaled.
Shawn, who was riding in the back seat behind Barbara, sustained bruises and a bloody nose, but he was able to get out of the car and to help Barbara exit. She was riding in the front passenger seat.
Barbara suffered a broken collarbone and a concussion, as well as a fractured sternum that wasn’t diagnosed until Monday, when she complained of persistent pain in her chest.
Both Tom and Ronnie, who was riding in the back seat directly behind Tom, were trapped inside the severely crumpled car.
All four were wearing their seatbelt, Barbara said.
The accident happened about 5:30 p.m. on Highway 22 in the Coast Range between Salem and Pacific City.
Firefighters used equipment to cut off part of the car’s roof and the front doors. They were able to extricate Ronnie first. He had a broken femur and broken hand, both of which required surgery.
Tom said he was trapped in the car for at least two hours. He was flown by Life Flight helicopter to Salem Memorial Hospital with three pelvic fractures and several broken ribs.
Tom was transferred on Monday afternoon to Doernbecher Hospital in Portland, where Ronnie was taken by Life Flight after the accident. The transfer allowed the family to recover in the same building.
Barbara said Ronnie is scheduled to have another surgery on his hand today to secure the broken bones with metal screws. Surgeons have already implanted a metal rod to stabilize his injured leg.
Ronnie, who will be an eighth-grader this fall, will likely be in a wheelchair for about three months, his mother said.
Barbara said she was looking down at her son’s cellphone just before the collision, and she didn’t see the accident happen.
Nor did she immediately realize she had suffered a broken collarbone.
“It was awful, everyone was screaming,” Barbara said. “We were praying in the car.”
See more in the Aug. 9, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.