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Trent Wood and Kristin Palmer awoke to find themselves pinned under a car that had crashed straight into their bedroom. Oil and hot fluids were leaking onto them as they lay helpless underneath.
TODAY contributor
updated 10/26/2009 9:43:44 AM ET 2009-10-26T13:43:44

It was the ultimate rude awakening: A 4 a.m. wake-up call delivered by an automobile in a cascade of noise, debris and hot, leaking engine fluids.

“I actually thought it was an earthquake and the roof fell on us,” Kristin Palmer told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Monday as she tried to describe what it was like to wake up pinned underneath an automobile. “I pretty much woke up with it on top of me. Before that I remember the shaking of the house and the noise, and then just a weight. It was like it just came right down on top of us.”

Palmer and her boyfriend, Trent Wood, showed no visible signs of injury from their brush with death, which happened last Tuesday morning in the bedroom of their rented home in Sparks, Nev.

“I don’t know how we survived that. We shouldn’t have, really,” Palmer added in a second TODAY appearance Monday with Natalie Morales.

Panic mode
The couple are students at the University of Nevada, Reno, and would learn later that an allegedly drunk driver had intentionally driven a stolen car into their house, in a case of mistaken address. According to published reports, police believe the man was hoping to kill his girlfriend’s estranged husband after she said she was returning to him. But the suspect drove into the wrong house, with results that could have been tragic.

It took some time for Palmer and Wood to even realize what had happened. Awakened from a sound sleep, all they knew at first was that something was horribly wrong and they were in desperate trouble.

“I don’t know how long it took, but I definitely went into panic mode ... and started screaming for help,” Palmer told Vieira. “I actually had my head lodged up in the engine somewhere. It was pretty uncomfortable.”

Pinned under the car for nearly 45 minutes, the couple struggled to avoid panic.
Wood recalled smelling gasoline and being underneath an automobile dripping hot fluids. The grill of the car had smashed into the headboard of the couple’s bed, and the right front tire was on the mattress while the left front was precariously balanced on top of a pile of debris from the wrecked house. Wood and Palmer could hear each other but couldn’t see each other.

“I could hear her screaming,” Wood said. “We were trying to keep ourselves strong.”

At the same time, Wood was wondering if all the hot, flammable fluids leaking from the car would catch fire and incinerate them.

“Your first reaction is, ‘OK, I hope it doesn’t blow up or start a fire because we’re stuck under here, and I don’t know how long it’s going to be,’ ” Wood told Vieira.

Burning fluids
Wood recalled spitting out fluids that were dripping on his face. He said he was lucky, getting dosed with substances that were merely hot. Palmer, meanwhile, had hotter liquids dripping on her that were actually burning her. Her legs were also pinned underneath the exhaust system, which caused second-degree burns.

But both were lucky. Superficial burns on Palmer’s face healed quickly and her legs will be just fine. When they were carted off to a hospital after being rescued, doctors would find that neither had any significant injuries, not even a broken pinky.

Police and local firemen arrived quickly, but after assessing the situation, they realized they would have to work carefully to avoid dislodging the car and crushing Palmer and Wood.

The Sparks, Nev., Fire Department handled the delicate job of extricating the car from the couple’s home without tipping it onto them.
“I’ve seen a lot of cars into buildings,” said Sparks fireman Carl Blincoe, who directed the rescue and joined the couple on TODAY. “This is the first time I’ve seen a car all the way inside a building. The rear end of the car was 10 or 12 feet inside the building.”

It would take nearly 45 minutes to free the couple, and the first half of the rescue time was consumed by clearing debris out of the bedroom. After that, rescuers had to lift the entire car at once with jacks and airbags. One slip could have been disastrous.

“Any wrong move, the car could have slipped off the bed, the car could have shifted on the debris pile. There were so many things that could have happened to make it worse,” Blincoe said.

Changed perspective
Palmer said her inclination was to panic. Wood’s was to attempt to analyze the situation and reassure her.

Freed from their ordeal beneath the car, Trent Wood and Kristin Palmer embrace, grateful to be alive.
“He was actually keeping me calm,” Palmer said of her boyfriend. “I remember him saying, ‘We have quite a story to tell everyone.’ He was awesome to have under the car with me for support. Without that, I was in shock.”

Even with rescuers all around them, they relied on each other, Palmer said. “We were saying, ‘I love you.’ We were pretty much each other’s support system.”

While they were pinned under the car, the couple said, their friends showed up to offer moral support. Once they were rescued and learned that they had lost much of what they owned — including their computers, which were in an office in the front of the rental house — friends chipped in to give them housing and clothes and support.

Palmer said the wake-up call has changed her appreciation for life. When you wake up with a car on top of you, it’s hard to take things for granted.

“I still can’t believe that we’re alive,” Palmer told Vieira. “It’s a miracle that we’re alive. Definitely, under the car we were thinking, ‘Am I going to live or not?’ It definitely changes your perspective.

“I definitely think we have more of a purpose in life.”

If you would like to to help Trent Wood and Kristin Palmer with their expenses from the car crash, funds for both have been set up at Bank of America. Make contributions payable to Trent Wood Medical Fund and/or Kristin Palmer Medical Fund.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Car crashes onto sleeping couple

  1. Closed captioning of: Car crashes onto sleeping couple

    >>> while.

    >>> we'll begin with the nevada couple who got the wake-up call of a lifetime recently when a car mashed into their home in the middle of the night and landed right on top of them in bed. here's nbc's lee cowan.

    >> reporter: we see it so often, it is almost as if buildings are leaping out into traffic. cars, school buses , even 18-wheelers are ending up in living rooms with an uncomfortable regularity. but this violent parking job in sparks, nevada last week is truly a remarkable story of survival.

    >> i've seen cars into houses before but this is the first time i've seen a car all the way in the house.

    >> reporter: it happened just after 4:00 in the morning. trent wood and kristin palmer were asleep when their home shook. police say this man, eric cross , was driving drunk on a suspended license when his car careened, up over the foundation, trashed a couple's study and kept going, right through their bedroom wall. but it's the crime scene photos that show the real nightmare. the car ended up on the couple's bed, pinning them underneath. the front wheels parked on the pillows, the searing hot engine just inches from their faces. they feared it would burst into flames. then engine fluid started leaking out. the car's exhaust pipes began scorching the couple's legs. rescuers had to keep them calm while they tried to gently lift the car off the bed.

    >> as soon as the male got out from under the car, he actually gave me a hug and said thank you.

    >> reporter: it took 45 minutes. but when the couple was finally carried to a waiting ambulance, they left with only minor cuts and burns. trent and kristin came back to look at the damage by the light of day and seemed overwhelmed with just how close they came. a nightmare in the middle of the night that was all too real. for "today," lee cowan, nbc news, los angeles .

    >> trent wood and kristin palmer are here for an exclusive interview along with the man who helped lead the rescue effort by the sparks fire department , carl blinco. good morning. starting with the two of you, obviously it is amazing you are alive. i'm watching you watch that piece. i think you're still in a state of shock .

    >> oh, definitely. i mean it's so surreal. it's like a dream. i mean it was unbelievable when it happened. i mean completely -- i don't know, what do you think?

    >> it was tuesday. take us back to tuesday. you're asleep in bed. it is 4:00 in the morning, 4:11. this car comes crashing through your home, goes through your home study and lands on the bed eventually. did you have any idea what was going on or did you wake up with this thing on top of you, kristin ?

    >> i pretty much woke up with it on top of me but before that i remember the shaking of the house and the noise and then just a weight. it was just like just came right down on top of us and i actually thought it was an earthquake and the roof fell on us. i don't know how long it took but i definitely went into panic mode after that and started screaming for help.

    >> could you see her from where you were? you were lying next to each other.

    >> i couldn't. because we were in between both tires and like the radiator, like part of the grill was smashed into the back of the headboard so i couldn't see her at all. we were on the outsides of that which was crazy. if we were inside of that --

    >> meanwhile, dripping on you is gasoline? is that right?

    >> gas, and like transmission fluid stuff just -- i think i got more of the oil part and she got more of the like burning -- the hot part of the fluid and stuff which had some burns on her face and everything but, yeah, it was crazy like spitting it out. at first -- your first reaction is i hope it doesn't blow up. because -- or start a fire because we're stuck under here. i don't know how long it is going to be. but one of the biggest things was once we heard help arrive and everything, we just, okay, we got to keep calm, save our energy.

    >> absolutely. carl , you've been in the business now of rescuing people for 22 years. had you ever seen anything like this?

    >> no. i've seen a lot of cars into buildings but this is the first time i've seen a car all the way inside the building. the rear end of the car was 10 or 12 feet inside the building.

    >> i can imagine trying to lift this car up. you ran the risk of it falling back down and crushing these two.

    >> that's correct. it could have happened two or three different ways. we ended up clearing all the debris out first which took half the rescue time and then setting up the rescue and lifting the car up and away from them so that they could -- we could safely get them out.

    >> did you fear the worst, carl ?

    >> yes, i did. any wrong move the car could have slipped off the bed, the car could have shifted on the debris pile. there was so many things that could have happened to make it worse.

    >> in the 42 minutes that it took for them to rescue the two of you, how were you keeping each other calm? what's going through your head?

    >> he was actually keeping me calm and he was surprisingly -- i mean i remember him saying, we have quite a story to tell everyone. and i'm thinking, oh, my gosh, what are you doing? he was awesome to have under the car with me for support, because without that, i mean i was in shock and i actually had my head lodged up in the engine somewhere and it was kind of crushed in between two things in the engine and i was pretty uncomfortable.

    >> i know your legs were pinned as well. when that car was finally lifted off you -- we're running out of time , so i'm going to cut to the chase -- the fact that had you to few injuries was miraculous. what is the extent of the injuries that you have? you both look great.

    >> just a minor burn on my leg, hers is i think a second-degree burn. just a few scrapes and cuts.

    >> bruises. that's it.

    >> that is changed the way you look at life at all, kristin ?

    >> yes, it has. i still can't believe that we're alive. i'm just watching all that, it is a miracle that we're alive. definitely we had that chance under the car, we were thinking am i going to live or not. it definitely changes your perspective.

    >> i know before we go, you have a lot of friends and family and strangers that helped you and you wanted to reach out and say thank you.

    >> oh, yeah. i mean where to start. like some of our close friends actually showed up right at the scene. erin, lauren, danny, bubba, ashley --

    >> bubba, too? these are actually aaron's clothes. we're staying at their house. his sister's sacrificed her bed for us and everything. the community's been great. they gave us like a free storage to kind of salvage whatever we could and stuff. so everyone's been great.

    >> i'd like to thank my friend jennifer, too. she was there for me. i stayed at her house for a while. officer hines. she actually stayed by the car and held my hand most of the car i was underneath the car.

    >> i know you've got a lot of pieces to pick up in your life but at least you're both alive. thank god for that. thank you both very much and carl as well, thank you for joining us.

    >>> amazing. now let's get a


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