Porsche driver recalls icy-bridge close call

By BILL POWELL
bpowell@dcherald.com

Jones

JASPER — A recent oh-my-gosh picture posted by Indiana State Police at the Jasper Post hammered home a warning to motorists that roadways were becoming slick and hazardous.

The snapshot showed the only thing saving a Porsche from plunging into the Patoka River was a Jasper bridge’s guardrail resting on its trunk. It looked ... gruesome.

Many expressed shock and then started asking questions. How had the driver avoided decapitation? How did the driver exit the dangling car and get to safety? And, when an accident report was published, why was there no mention of injuries?

“The amazing thing is I don’t have a scratch, a bruise, stiffness, soreness or anything,” says the driver, Michael A. Jones of Jasper.

It turns out many people are familiar with Jones. He grew up here. After 20 years in Connecticut, he moved back 30 years ago and serves as executive director of the Memorial Hospital Foundation and president of the Jasper Community Arts Commission.

Jones was willing to discuss the crash but he was reluctant to have it featured in a story because, he maintains, he did nothing extraordinary. The Jasper resident still referees soccer at age 71 but it wasn’t cat-quick reflexes that won the day the night of Saturday, Jan. 26.

He admits never feeling as helpless as he did just before impact. The only thing he did as it occurred: Relax.

The official police version from the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department states Jones was eastbound on 15th Street in a 2001 Porsche Boxster when the 8:08 p.m. accident occurred on the river bridge east of Cherry Street.

Roadways and bridges were icing over when the car went sideways on black ice at the midpoint of the bridge.

Because the sports car sat low to the ground — it was a mid-engine, convertible roadster — the Porsche’s front end went under the north guardrail. Deputies said the guardrail went over the hood, windshield and roof.

The Porsche stopped off the bridge, held in place by the guardrail resting on its trunk.

“I literally was going 27 mph,” explains Jones, noting he’s traveled the same route hundred of times and was coming home alone from a fundraiser. “The second my car hit that bridge, I went into a counter-clockwise spin.”

He told himself he was about to hit the guardrail. And he did.

“I couldn’t do a thing other than just go with it,” Jones said. “I was pretty relaxed during the whole thing. I didn’t even tense up that I know of.”

Pictures suggest the left front of the car hit first, snapping three or four vertical guardrail supports. That apparently allowed the horizontal guardrail to give as it rode up the Porsche’s beveled, steel pillars on either side of the windshield.

Jones’ windshield was shattered and the soft-topped convertible was mishapened by the time the guardrail came in contact with the Boxster’s trunk lid.

“That guardrail is literally the only thing keeping that car from going in the river,” Jones says.

Dubois County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said the guardrail built by the county worked as it was designed: Keep a car from going into the water while providing some give “to basically catch the vehicle.”

“This was a test and it passed,” Berg said.

It took two wreckers to retrieve the car. Photo courtesy Michael A. Jones

The state police picture taken from the east side of the bridge shows just the car’s two rear wheels remaining on the bridge deck, with the car dangling in the air.

A picture from the west side of the bridge reveals the car is actually at a slight angle, with the driver’s-side rocker panel resting on the lip of the bridge deck.

“I literally just opened the door and stepped out,” Jones says. “The door opened 24 or 30 inches and that was enough for me to just reach out, grab the guardrail and pull myself out.”

He had turned on the car’s flashers before exiting. As two cars passed before police arrived, the drivers asked Jones if he was OK.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I’m perfectly OK. Thanks for asking. Be careful, it’s slippery out there.’”

It took two wreckers to retrieve the car. One tethered the Porsche with a chain to keep it from falling into the river and the other, equipped with a boom, lifted the guardrail.

Jones realizes he could have ended up upside down in the river. Or worse.

“I’m very thankful, you know? I’m very blessed. It’s said God works in strange ways and he does,” Jones says. “Nothing happened to me. There was nobody coming in the opposite direction.”

And Jones is simply left with a question.

“I said that to somebody, ‘I wonder what God wants me to do?’

“I gotta be around for a reason.”

Michael A. Jones says he's thankful and blessed he wasn't injured. Photo courtesy of Jones






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