Illegal Street Racing - Air Force recruiter injured by driver speeding out of control

  • Published
  • By Tim Barela
  • Torch Magazine
Driving in a southbound lane on Academy Boulevard in Colorado Springs, Colo., Master Sgt. Prince E. Porter Jr. saw the white 1980 Camaro racing another vehicle in the northbound lane.

He watched helplessly as the speeding Camaro hit the median at more than 75 mph (the speed limit was 50), and the driver lost control. The Camaro went airborne directly in his path.

"There was no time to react; I didn't even have time to curse," said Porter, the operations flight chief for the 367th Recruiting Squadron in Colorado Springs. "I couldn't believe what was happening."

None of it made much sense. It was 9:30 in the morning on a clear, bright, sunny day March 22. Porter was just starting a five-hour trip to Albuquerque, N.M., where he was going to give training to some fellow recruiters. Most people were already at work by that time, so the roads weren't as congested as they were just an hour earlier.

But then, illegal street racing never does make much sense -- no matter what time of day or night it happens. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nationwide statistics show that nearly 50 people are injured for every 1,000 who participate in illegal street racing.

When the Camaro dove head-on into the front of the government vehicle (a 2007 Dodge Stratus) the recruiter drove, the first police to arrive at the scene said they figured there was no way the sergeant could have survived. The driver's compartment was mangled, and Porter had to be cut out by the Jaws of Life.

Porter was conscious but disoriented as rescuers worked frantically to free him. He was also in a lot of pain.

"I was aware of what was going on," the 45-year-old said. "Even though I was trapped in the vehicle and in pain, I didn't panic. I didn't think I was going to die. I focused on what the rescue workers were doing. They kept talking to me -- probably to keep me from losing consciousness and going into shock -- so that kept me focused. The only thing that I was apprehensive about was facing a needle. I have this thing against needles, and I knew one was coming (for the IV). Other than that, I was pretty calm."

When rescue workers finally freed Porter, they put him in the ambulance and rushed him to nearby Memorial Hospital. Sure enough, he did face the dreaded needle in the ambulance. But with the needle came morphine, so his apprehension soon disappeared.

At the hospital he went through a battery of tests that included X-rays and CAT scans. His wife Martina, who works in the life skills center at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., didn't get to see him for nearly two hours after arriving at the hospital.

Miraculously, he survived the crash in relatively good condition, though not totally unscathed. He suffered a torn muscle in his right shoulder, for which he still has to go through physical therapy. He also tore a ligament in his right thumb, and sustained painful bruises to his ribs and his left hip.

In February 2004 Senior Airman Christopher Pedroley of the 311th Human Systems Wing at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio wasn't so lucky. A street racer rear-ended a car in which Pedroley and his wife (Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Pedroley) were passengers in the back seat. The collision caused their car to spin out of control. Elizabeth survived the crash; her 21-year-old husband did not.

Porter knows all too well that he could have met Pedroley's fate. He's thankful he wore his seat belt, thankful for the airbag that deployed and thankful for some good luck.

"It really hit me a few weeks later when we were picking up my son (visiting from college) at the airport," Porter said. "The hair kind of raised on the back of my neck when I realized that just an inch or two this way or that, and I might have never seen him again."

Porter said he doesn't have any lingering emotional effects from the crash. Having driven thousands and thousands of miles as a recruiter has steeled his nerves behind the wheel of a car. He even won an annual safety award two years ago as a recruiter in New Jersey for having driven the most miles with no accidents (although, he jokes that he's definitely out of the running for the honor this year).

"I've always been a cautious driver," he said. "I still am. Most importantly, I always strap on my seat belt -- that's my security blanket. If I hadn't worn my seat belt that day ... it would have been curtains."

Unfortunately, sometimes Airmen are not just the victims of street racing, they are the perpetrators. Earlier this year, a first lieutenant in San Antonio was arrested and jailed for illegal street racing. His fate still awaits him.

"Street racing is so stupid," the recruiter said. "The guy who hit me is the luckiest of all. He was up and walking around right after the crash. Plus, if I'd died, he'd be facing vehicular manslaughter right now. And he's in enough trouble as it is."