Take one sedan, one semi-tractor trailer, a patch of ice, 44,000 pounds of sugar, mix them together and you have a recipe for near disaster. Those were the ingredients that made up an incredible story of survival.
"Early Show" co-anchor Jeff Glor reported a 30-year-old Michigan man made it out alive after a horrific accident with a semi while on his way to work. Eyewitnesses are calling it a miracle.
In the pre-dawn darkness along Interstate 75 in Genesee County, Michigan, a semi hauling 20 tons of sugar lay on its side, and crushed beneath it was a pancaked Chevy Malibu. And somewhere inside the Malibu 30-year-old Marc Walter Keinath was lucky to be alive
He was driving to work Just after 5 a.m. Tuesday when he pulled his car into the right lane of the highway and in front of a semi. Then,he hit a patch of ice and spun out. When he regained control on the shoulder, he was face-to-face with the semi, which was bearing down on him. They collided. When the vehicles finally came to a stop, they were in a ditch -- and Keinath was trapped.
Clio Area Fire Chief Gary Domerese said, "When we got on the scene, both of them were in the ditch."
With his car roof collapsing on him, Keinath amazingly found the presence of mind to recline his seat, reach for his cell phone and dial 911.
On that call, the 911 operator asked, "Do you remember a mile marker? The last mile marker crossroad?"
Keinath replies, "I have no idea, I have a semi on top of me."
The operator responds, "Is anybody hurt?"
"I, uh, not that I know of," Keinath says.
With help on the way, Keinath texted his fiancee, Kati Reinert. He wrote, "I'm in an accident. I'm alive though."
Reinert asked if she could come to him. He wrote back, "No. The expressway is closed."
She asked if he was in the car under the semi she was seeing on the news. He wrote, "Yeah."
It took rescue workers more than two hours to free him, and when they did, Keinath wasn't badly hurt.
The driver of the truck also survived the crash with no serious injuries.
On "The Early Show," Keinath said he feels like a lucky man, but when he returns to the accident in his mind, he remembers how worried he was that the semi could crush him.
He said, "I'm just looking up at a roof and hoping the rest of the semi doesn't shift and come down on the rest of the car. Just a small portion of the car roof was up."
But, amazingly, Keinath had a relatively roomy space in the flattened vehicle.
"I could move my arms around, my legs around. I could rotate around," he said. "But the rest of the roof was caved in. The rearview mirror was where the shifter was at. Other than that, I just had that little cubby space."
But, as "Early Show" Chris Wragge pointed out, that space was enhanced by Keinath's quick thinking recline the seat to give himself more room in the car.
Keinath said, "When I seen it coming down, I just instantly, I don't know what came over me -- I just grabbed the lever and leaned back and hopefully got a little more room in case it did come down the rest of the way."
As for contacting Reinert, Keinath says he "just wanted to let her know I was all right. I was still alive. But I was in that accident. It was pretty much -- it was on our local news, so I knew she'd seen it. So I just texted her. 'I'm all right,' that I loved her and I was hoping to get out of this alive."
Reinert told Wragge on "The Early Show" she had a "horrible feeling."
"It was unbelievable," she said. "I actually didn't know, exactly. My sister had told me that it was on the TV. So that's when I turned it on, and I'm like, I sent him a text, 'Are you the one underneath the semi?' And he was like, 'Yes.' And I'm like, 'Oh.' I just hit the floor."
But his messages were a relief, Reinert said.
"He was obviously alive," she said. "But I didn't know what type of condition. Was he going in and out of consciousness? Did he have broken bones, broken legs? I didn't know how he would be."
Keinath tried to comfort her.
He said, "I just told her that, 'I'm alive. I'm fine. I'm hopefully going to get out of this and we'll go from there.'"
Jeremy Kline, one of the rescuers, said he was surprised by Keinath.
"I didn't expect to come around the side of the vehicle, the driver's side, and lean and ask him was he OK, and he just looked up and me and says, 'Yeah, I'm fine.' Like nonchalant."
Rescuers stabilized the vehicle first, Kline said, then began cutting away parts of the vehicle to free Keinath.
Keinath told Wragge he's been on the roads since the accident, but hasn't gotten behind the wheel.
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