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Video: Car catapults man who darted into traffic

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    ANN CURRY, co-host: But let's begin with that man who is lucky to be alive after a terrible accident caught on tape in Jacksonville Beach , Florida . And again, we should warn you, this video is disturbing. It looks like something out of an action movie . A man darts out into traffic and is hit by a car, tossing the man into the air like a rag doll before he slams onto the hood of the car, then falls into the path of a bus. But this is no movie for 28-year-old Shaun Mills who had actually been taking that bus home from work. Mills got off the bus and tried to dart across the street behind the bus when he was hit by a car and literally thrown under the bus.

    Mr. TERRY ESSICK (Eyewitness to Accident): I saw him in the air, hit the bus, then the ground. He was up as high as the bus, I think.

    CURRY: Watch again as a car coming up on the driver's side of the bus slammed into Mills throwing him 15 feet into the air, and against the side of the bus.

    Mr. CARL OTRADOVEC (Eyewitness to Accident): I heard the crash and I thought that it was two cars actually crashing into each other, it was so loud. And then, you know, we looked out and saw Shaun laying in the road.

    CURRY: Lucky for Mills , his bus driver hit the brakes moments before narrowly running over Mills .

    Mr. OTRADOVEC: He was folded in half. His back was definitely broken. I thought he was done. I mean, I thought there was -- there was no hope at that point.

    CURRY: Mills was badly injured, suffering brain trauma , spinal cord and neck injuries and multiple fractures.

    Mr. ESSICK: When I looked at him, I mean, I was holding his hand, I didn't think he would make it at all.

    CURRY: But Mills miraculously survived and spent several weeks recovering at a local rehabilitation center . Today, Mills has no memory of the accident, only this incredible video. Shaun Mills is with us exclusively this morning along with his attorney, Megan Searls . Good morning to both of you.

    Mr. SHAUN MILLS (Hit by Car and Thrown into a Bus): Good morning.

    Ms. MEGAN SEARLS: Good morning.

    CURRY: Shaun , you have no memory of the accident, so when you look at that video, that is the only way for you to know exactly what happened.

    Mr. MILLS: Mm-hmm.

    CURRY: What's your reaction when you see that video?

    Mr. MILLS: It's devastating. It's a miracle that I made it -- walked away from that one.

    CURRY: I know. And does it -- can you stand to look at it? I mean, it's hard for me to watch, hard for anyone.

    Mr. MILLS: Hard. Yes, I can hardly stand to look at it.

    CURRY: And when you think back, what is the last memory that you have?

    Mr. MILLS: Getting on to the JTA bus on -- two hours prior to the incident. It's a two-hour bus ride and I remember getting on to the bus and that is all.

    CURRY: Well, having lost the memory, nevertheless when we just outlined your injuries...

    Mr. MILLS: Mm-hmm.

    CURRY: I mean, they were pretty devastating. You suffered trauma. Tell me more about what other injuries you suffered.

    Mr. MILLS: My T-11 , my spinal cord was crushed. I had a compound fracture on my left leg from my knee to the ankle where the bumper of the -- hit the bumper of the car. My collarbone was fractured and my brain swelled up, I had a concussion.

    CURRY: And so when you think about now, you're sitting here on the TODAY show ...

    Mr. MILLS: Mm-hmm.

    CURRY: And you're talking and you're -- I know that you're in a wheelchair normally.

    Mr. MILLS: Right.

    CURRY: But you are, you know, you look and sound terrific.

    Mr. MILLS: Mm-hmm. It's great.

    CURRY: How do you -- how do you attribute this recovery?

    Mr. MILLS: I just thank God and the paramedic that was there. He was off of duty and he seen me actually flying in the air and got out of his car, immediately responded. And the pedestrians came around and gave it their all to get -- to get me stable, so.

    CURRY: So the Good Samaritans , as well as the paramedic, then helped save your life?

    Mr. MILLS: Exactly. Mm-hmm. If it wasn't for those, I wouldn't be here today.

    CURRY: I notice the driver also stopped his car and ran over to you as well.

    Mr. MILLS: Mm-hmm. Yes.

    CURRY: Megan , I guess the question for you is we don't know why Shaun decided to step behind the bus and cross into ongoing traffic. How -- is there a legal liability? I know that the driver of that car was not -- was not cited.

    Ms. SEARLS: Correct. The driver wasn't cited. However, we have reached a settlement with that person.

    CURRY: Regarding insurance and that kind of thing?

    Ms. SEARLS: Correct. We have reached a settlement. We are still pursuing JTA bus. You can't really see it on the video, but where Shaun was allowed to get off of the bus, the sidewalk was closed, it was all under construction.

    CURRY: Hm.

    Ms. SEARLS: So basically there was nowhere for him to go except in the roadway where there was oncoming traffic or for him to go ahead and cross and have an encounter such as this.

    CURRY: So it was a -- so you're saying that he wasn't able -- he wasn't dropped off in a place that was safe. And so maybe -- because you -- since you don't remember...

    Mr. MILLS: Hm.

    CURRY: ...can you explain at all why you would have crossed behind the bus into oncoming traffic?

    Mr. MILLS: Sure. Usually when I get off of the bus, I continue to go down the sidewalk on that side of the road and wait until I get to my house to cross the road , but I guess there wasn't really -- I just seen there wasn't much of an alternative to -- but to go because the sidewalk was closed and they were doing construction work . And I 'd seen a clear path to go across the road, so just figured I'd go ahead and get on over there across the street to my house .

    CURRY: So that's -- so that's a good warning to anyone getting off a bus and just to be very, very, very careful.

    Mr. MILLS: Exactly.

    CURRY: It can be very dangerous.

    Mr. MILLS: Mm-hmm.

    CURRY: Shaun , I know you've got a lot of physical therapy yet ahead of you.

    Mr. MILLS: Exactly.

    CURRY: It looks like you're doing great.

    Mr. MILLS: That's awesome. Yeah.

    CURRY: So thank you for being here this morning.

    Mr. MILLS: Thank you very much , mm-hmm.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 4/9/2010 9:20:42 AM ET 2010-04-09T13:20:42

It’s one of those videos that’s so hard to watch that you can’t help playing it over and over again. A man walks from behind a bus into the path of a car that slams into him, tossing him in the air like a rag doll. He comes down on the roof of the car and bounces off it into the side of the same bus, finally ending up on the street in a crumpled and motionless heap.

“It’s like the hardest thing to look at it,” Shaun Mills, the man in the video, told TODAY’s Ann Curry Friday in New York. “It’s devastating. It’s a miracle that I walked away from that one.”

Mills was using a figure of speech. He didn’t actually walk away from the accident, which happened on Feb. 4 in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. He doesn’t, in fact, even remember it. All he knows is what he sees in the stomach-churning video.

Fateful missed stop
The last thing that Mills does remember is getting on the city bus two hours earlier to commute from his job as a cook to his residence. He apparently missed his usual stop and got off the bus one stop later in the middle of a block.

“Usually when I get off of the bus, I continue to go down the sidewalk on that side of the road and wait until I get to my house to cross the road,” Mills said.

But when he got off a stop later, the sidewalk was under construction and closed. So, Mills assumes now, he decided to cross the street in the middle of the block. Mills also thinks he would have checked for cars before crossing.

“There wasn’t much of an alternative, because the sidewalk was closed and they were doing construction work,” Mills told Curry. “I saw a clear path to go across the road, so I just figured I’d go ahead and get on over there across the street,” Mills said.

‘I thought he was done’
The street had two lanes going in the same direction, a median strip, and then two more lanes going the opposite direction. The bus was in the right lane, and Mills stepped directly in front of a car going the same direction as the bus and passing it on the left.

The car’s bumper hit Mills’ lower left leg. He catapulted into the air, cartwheeling before slamming into the roof and windshield of the car that hit him, then bouncing into the side of the bus.

“He was folded in half, and his back was definitely broken,” Carl Otradovec, who was among those who came to Mills’ aid, told NBC News. “I thought he was done. I thought there was no hope at that point.”

Another Samaritan at the scene, Terry Essick, also thought Mills was a goner. “I was holding his hand. When I looked at him, I didn't think he would make it at all,” Essick told NBC News.

Litany of injuries
Indeed, Mills was severely injured, his body crushed and broken literally from head to foot. He cataloged his injuries for Curry.

TODAY
Having missed his usual stop, Shaun Mills exited the bus in the middle of the block, where the sidewalk was closed.
“My T-11, my spinal cord, was crushed,” Mills began. “I had a compound fracture on my left leg from the knee to the ankle where it hit the bumper of the car. My collarbone was fractured and my brain swelled up. I had a concussion.”

Doctors drilled a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure on Mills’ brain and put him in a medically induced coma for five days. A metal rod was inserted to hold the pieces of his left leg together. After a month of rehabilitation, he left the hospital in a wheelchair, which he still needs to get around in as he faces months more of physical therapy.

But despite all the damage and the long road ahead of him, Mills figures he’s extremely lucky.

Good Samaritans
The driver of the car that hit him stopped immediately and ran to his aid. The bus driver also slammed on the brakes. A passing off-duty paramedic pulled his car over and helped stabilize Mills. Other pedestrians also joined in giving lifesaving first aid.

TODAY
Shaun Mills appeared on TODAY along with his attorney, Megan Searls. She believes that the bus company bears responsibility for Mills’ dramatic mishap.
“I just thank God and the paramedic that was there. He was off duty and he saw me actually flying in the air and got out of his car and immediately responded. The pedestrians came around and gave it their all to get me stable,” Mills said.

The driver of the car that hit him was not cited by police, as he had broken no traffic laws. Mills’ attorney, Megan Searls, joined him on TODAY and said that the driver’s insurance company has agreed to a settlement with her client.

She told Curry that she believes that the Jacksonville Transportation Authority bears most of the responsibility for what happened.

“We are still pursuing JTA bus,” she said. “Where Sean was allowed to get off of the bus, the sidewalk was closed. It was all under construction. So, basically, there was nowhere for him to go except in the roadway where there was oncoming traffic.”

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