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 stopThe 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 injuriesIndeed, Mills was severely injured, his body crushed and broken literally from head to foot. He cataloged his injuries for Curry.
“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 SamaritansThe 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.
“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.”