WATERVILLE — Karl Andresen said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“I was at the intersection doing absolutely nothing,” he said. “Then all of a sudden there was this large crash out of nowhere.”

Andresen, 69, of Winslow, was sitting in his 2006 Toyota Tacoma on College Avenue waiting for the light to change when his truck suddenly was destroyed by a speeding SUV driven by Nancy Hazard, 42, of Waterville.

Six vehicles were involved in the March 18 crash in front of the fire station, and six people were sent to the hospital — including Andresen, who suffered a cracked cervical vertebra, eight broken ribs, a concussion and a laceration on his tongue.

Andresen said he briefly lost consciousness after the crash, but he remembers most of what transpired that day; and even as he regains his strength and mobility, his memories are sometimes haunting.

The crash is still under investigation. Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said Hazard told investigators last week that she doesn’t remember the crash or the events leading up to it.

The aftermath

Shortly after the crash, Andresen regained consciousness inside his rumpled truck. The airbags had deployed and he was scared.

“The first thing I remember, there was a lady there, and I don’t know who she was. But she said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be all right,'” he recalled.

Seconds later, firemen with extrication equipment began to pry off the driver’s side door. Andresen was beginning to panic.

“I remember saying to them, ‘Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me,'” he said. “I needed somebody to hold me.”

Despite having blacked out earlier, Andresen was alert and answering questions. An emergency medical technician asked him for his wife’s phone number, and he relayed it with a message.

“I said to him, ‘Tell my wife to drive slowly, because she has a lead foot,'” he said.

At home in Winslow, Jo Ann Andresen received the message verbatim, then drove to the emergency room at Inland Hospital. She knew the crash was serious, but as a certified nurse’s assistant and a phlebotomist, she controlled her emotions.

“I went into medical mode,” she said. “You don’t panic; you just react.”

When she arrived, she thought her husband of nearly 45 years was in surprisingly good condition despite the seriousness of the crash. Later that night, however, the medical staff decided to transfer Andresen.

“When they told me he was going to Eastern Maine (Medical Center in Bangor), I thought they were fooling me,” she said.

Road to recovery

Andresen spent the next two weeks in the hospital. He was in physical pain and he also was anxious.

His son, Matthew Andresen, bought him a stuffed animal. The stuffed dog served as a stand-in for his real dog, Ruby, and he would talk to it as if it were the real thing — even if the nurses thought he was peculiar.

“I used it for two things,” he said of the toy. “I hugged this sucker when my ribs were hurting me; and the other thing that I’d do, when I got a little depressed, I’d talk to it. I’d say, ‘We’re going to go walking. We’re going to go hiking. This little setback is not going to put a stop to that.'”

At the beginning of his hospital stay, Andresen, a Spanish teacher at Winslow High School since 1991, couldn’t complete simple tasks without assistance from the nurses; but he dedicated himself to the daily business of rehabilitation, he said.

“It was quite literally a boot camp,” he said. “I pushed myself in rehab because I want to get back to my students.”

Andresen also was dealing with disturbing thoughts from the crash.

“The sound of the impact has had an impact on me,” he said. “I’ve had several flashbacks.”

One flashback was so severe, he spent the next 30 minutes crying alone in his hospital bed.

“After that, I recognized that I had to get help,” he said.

Andresen said a therapist gave him three assignments. First, he had to look at a photograph of his truck before the crash. Second, he had to look at a picture of the destroyed truck.

“I avoided it. It wasn’t until a week and a half after the accident occurred that I took a look at it,” he said of the photo.

Third, Andresen was asked to return to the scene of the crash, something he hasn’t been able to do since being discharged late last week.

“I know I should do it, but I haven’t done that yet.”

Determining the cause

Eyewitnesses said Hazard’s crossover SUV was traveling 70 to 80 mph when it smashed into Andresen’s rear bumper and became airborne. Andresen said investigators haven’t discussed the cause of the crash with him.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I’ve heard rumors, but I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to believe the rumors I’ve heard.”

Despite the trials, Andresen said he’s not bitter toward the driver — except that he has missed time with his students. He said he hopes Hazard, who was injured severely in the crash, has a speedy recovery.

“I consider myself lucky,” he said. “I’m thankful that I’m still alive. I’m thankful that it could have been much, much, much worse.”

Jo Ann Andresen said they have both taken the ordeal in stride.

“We’re building character,” she said. “At our age, we’re still building character.”

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

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