As Hunter Jumper comes together with family for Thanksgiving this year, he’ll have something more to be thankful for.
That’s because the 24-year-old Fire defender suffered only a concussion and some bruises following a serious car accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway Tuesday morning at approximately 7:00 a.m. on his way to train with his alma mater University of Virginia Men’s Soccer team.
Traveling from his parent’s place in Winter Green about an hour away to Charlottesville as he has every day the past two weeks, Jumper says he was about 12 miles into the drive through the mountains and experienced no problems from the rain and snow mixture that hit much of the east coast Monday night.
Suddenly though, the Audi Q5 he was driving hit a solid sheet of black ice.
“Immediately I tried to turn but I started skidding and looked like I was going straight off the mountain,” he told Chicago-Fire.com via phone on Wednesday. “I crushed the rail guard and it held its own but then it knocked me towards the mountain again. I tried to pump my brakes but nothing was working.
“I hit the mountain and it rebounded me back towards the ledge and fortunately I hit the rail guard and then this big rock really hard. Thank God I hit the rock because it deployed all my air bags.”
Right after his airbags deployed the car flipped and careened back towards the ledge where the rail guard had run out.
“I thought for sure I was going to die because the car kept picking up momentum and I didn’t think it was going to stop. It finally stopped on this tree and icy rock and it was completely turned around.”
With the car turned on its left side, Jumper came to a halt on the ground. Everytime he moved, it felt like the vehicle was going to slide back down the mountain. The doors were jammed and windows shattered from the collisions.
Seemingly trapped but trying to stay calm, he looked up towards the sunroof and was able to get it to open about 10 inches.
“The car was shaking and at that point I was pretty scared because there was a six or seven foot drop from where the car was hanging to where I needed to jump to the ground.”
Jumper estimates that it took about 15 minutes to fully wiggle his way through the sunroof. At any time the car could have slipped and crushed his upper half.
“The car wiggled but didn’t fall and I just did a somersault. I think I bruised my hip when I made the jump from the car and landed on a rock.”
With his cell phone (and pretty much everything else in the car) destroyed, Jumper was unable to contact anyone for help. An estimated 45 minutes passed after his car stopped before another vehicle came through that section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“All of a sudden a car goes by and I was screaming but they can’t hear me. I look up and the car finally stopped about 200-300 yards away from where I hit the first rail guard. They couldn’t travel up the ice and so they pulled into the grassy area.”
The car was being driven by two Australian brothers who had arrived in the U.S. just last week for a road trip.
One of the brothers advised Jumper not to move his neck too much, jokingly saying, “You couldn’t have had two better people to pick you up because we’ve been in tons of wrecks.”
Without cell phone reception in the mountains, it took the pair an additional 45 minutes to get Jumper to a hospital, where his parents and former UVA teammates were called to let them know what had happened.
In the end, Jumper was diagnosed with a concussion and had some soreness from bruises but otherwise was in good health and spirit Wednesday morning.
The ordeal brought back memories of a car accident that claimed the life of his cousin and best friend 13 years ago. In that incident, the relative was on his way to join Jumper’s family for a Thanksgiving vacation on South Padre Island when he lost his life.
“Ever since then, I think that’s why I’ve tried to hold on to the people I loved and I didn’t want to cause anyone the pain I felt when that happened.”
Jumper says it’ll be a while before he drives again and will spend a relaxed and very thankful Thanksgiving with his family in Virginia.
“I already feel like the accident has changed my life. I’m so thankful to be alive and to have my family.”