Ian Burgess had less than five seconds to avoid what could have been a horrific high-speed, head-on collision on Highway 2 early Monday morning.
The paramedic credits his emergency driver training for helping him react instantly and avoid slamming head on into another vehicle, its lights out, barrelling south in the northbound lanes of the highway just outside Red Deer, near the bridge over the river, at about 4:15 a.m.
Every second of the chilling near miss was caught on his dashcam.
Heart pumping excitement on the QE2 this morning in #RedDeer.
— Ian Burgess (@thundermedic) February 17, 2020
Burgess, 36, was in the fast lane when he saw the vehicle approaching at highway speed. He moved to the other lane, but the other vehicle kept coming, aimed right at him.
In a split-second decision, he swerved his Chevrolet Colorado pickup into the ditch next to the highway and brought it to a stop — miraculously without suffering so much as a scratch.
Burgess later heard that the vehicle had been stolen and had already hit a deer, which knocked out its headlights.
“He was escaping the cops and somehow ended up southbound in the northbound lanes.”
The Calgarian had just passed a vehicle, so he was in the fast lane when he first spotted the oncoming vehicle in the darkness.
“So, I moved over to the number two lane, and then he veered right towards me,” he said over the phone on Wednesday.
“And in that moment, I’m (thinking), ‘Oh, he wants to hit me.’
“I looked to the left and thought it wasn’t a good idea to go there, because he might change lanes again, and the cable barrier was there.”
The ditch was the only option left.
“Fortunately, I was able to zip off and end up OK.”
A paramedic for 18 years, Burgess said he’s completed a number of emergency driving courses.
“I kind of knew from that, that I can only give it this much left (steering) and this much right.
“Somehow, I managed to do 105 km/h sideways and recovered it without hitting anything.”
“I pulled (the video) off my dashcam right away, and when I showed the cop, he looked at it over and over again, and said, ‘How did you not hit anything? That guy came out of nowhere.’”
The two vehicles had a closing speed of close to 240 km/h, narrowing the gap between them by 70 metres per second.
“If I had actually hit him, it would be like going 240 km/h into a brick wall.”
Besides a racing heart, Burgess was not hurt. Even his truck emerged unscathed and he was able to continue his journey to Tofield, where he works.
Bizarrely, he saw the vehicle that nearly hit him only moments after the near-miss. As he pointed his truck from the ditch to the highway, the vehicle shot by once again.
It was later found abandoned in Red Deer, he was told.
Looking back on the incident, Burgess does not believe the driver was trying to hit him. He thinks he saw him and instinctively drove toward him, a common reaction in drivers.
“I think he just focused on me and unconsciously steered the vehicle that way.”
He has learned in his driver training not to look at a tree or other obstacle: look to the open space around it to avoid unwittingly driving straight into something.
“My best advice in those situations, is look where you want to go, steer and then brake — in that order.”