Dr Wennberg’s Casebook: Four Lives Wasted

Just a reminder: All cases in this series are real and are described as it was, or at least as I can recall them. The stories are not fake or fiction.

If you are sensitive to explicit descriptions, be warned!

February 1987 was a really cold month in Northern Sweden, with temperatures down to -32 degrees C. I worked as a young resident at the small hospital in Lycksele. One late Friday afternoon when I prepared to leave the Emergency Dept. for the day the telephone rang:

A car accident with many injured! was the message.

I stayed in case my help was needed, but the telephone rang once again…

All are dead…

OK, I prepared to return home when the telephone rang a third time:

Perhaps we should have a doctor at the scene! said the policeman.

As a young doctor willing to answer a call beyond duty I decided to offer my help…

What had happened?

This was when it was mandatory for all Swedish men to serve in the Swedish army for about one year. The weekend travel possibilities for the servicemen were generous. Three young men that had landed at Skellefteå airport could use a rental car for the weekend to get to their homes. The car was a new Saab. One of the three young men didn’t like that the driver drove too fast and careless, so he asked to get off the car in order to visit an aunt or something like that. This saved his life…

 It was perfect winter driving conditions. A lot of snow increasing the effects of the headlights. The road surface was ice perforated by the studs on the winter tyres. Typically good winter driving conditions, if you drive with care and good judgement. But the boys drove way to fast, and couldn’t keep the inner curve, and in a long bend to the right they collided front to front in high speed with an elderly couple driving in ordinary speed. When I arrived at the scene the couple’s car was removed. The boy’s car had flown through the air and landed wheels down on a field. I don’t remember the distance but there were no tracks in the snow from the road. The two young men’s car had caught fire and they sat, due to the impact, where the backseat would have been. They looked like mummies. Steam and smoke still evaporated from the bodies. If you touched them pieces of them fell off. At least one of the skulls was cracked and a coagulated brain’s surface was visible. On the wrists, where the hands were burnt off, their watches showed the time at the impact. If I remember correct it was 17:05. In their shirt pockets you could see the metal parts of their Ballograf Epoca ballpoint pens. Button, clip, cartridge, and spring in a neat line on the chest. All plastic parts were burnt off. I tried to walk around the car in the thick snow, trying to identify what was burnt body parts and what was not.

The situation was surreal. It was cold. It was silent. The sky was clear and huge green curtains of the most spectacular Northern Lightning I’ve ever seen moved slowly…

Four lives wasted…

5 responses

  1. That must have been horrendous for you. I recently helped at a road safety day for young people. I hope it helped. The trouble is youngsters think they are immortal.


  2. I came across your blog via your post on FPN; this story reminded me of one of the reasons I gave up forensic medicine. My son was just of an age to start to drive and having been to too many incidents like this, I felt that I would never want to be the one to certify my own son’s death. Irrational, I know, but I also know what young men who have just learned to drive are like.

    Keep posting


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