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Nurse survives 75-foot fall into river while trying to help drivers in I-70 crash

The Washington Post The Washington Post 4/08/2016 Dana Hedgpeth, Justin Wm. Moyer
Angela Weir with her husband, Chris Weir. Angela was injured when she stopped to offer medical assistance at a highway collision and fell off a bridge. © Family Photo Angela Weir with her husband, Chris Weir. Angela was injured when she stopped to offer medical assistance at a highway collision and fell off a bridge.

Most of us run from disasters. Nurses run toward them.

Angela Weir, a nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s shock-trauma unit, thought she could help after coming upon a fiery crash Wednesday morning along Interstate 70 in Frederick County.

But her efforts nearly led to catastrophe after she mistook, amid smoke and adrenaline, a jersey wall for a median, jumped over it to put some distance between herself and the flames — and fell about 75 feet into the Monocacy River.

Weir said she is “on the other side of this situation all time” — caring for victims of “falls from all distances.” She can’t explain why she was able to walk out of a hospital with nothing but “very minor” fractures in her spine and the back of her skull when those who fall from two or three stories are often in worse condition.

“I don’t understand why I’m uninjured,” Weir said. “I’m not sure how to explain it other than it’s a miracle.”

The crash happened just before 5 a.m. when a dump truck loaded with concrete was traveling slowly westbound near the Monocacy River bridge. The truck didn’t have its lights on, according to police, and a tractor-trailer that was carrying asphalt rear-ended it.

That caused the dump truck to hit the bridge’s wall and turn over as the tractor-trailer jackknifed. Not long after, Weir, headed west with her husband on I-70 to a gym before her shift, came upon the scene.

Chris Weir said his wife was running down the highway toward the crash not long after seeing brake lights.

He called 911 and headed closer to the wreck himself. As emergency personnel tried to help the drivers, he realized he couldn’t find his wife. Angela Weir had already gone over.

“I began falling, and I didn’t know right away what I was falling to and didn’t know what I was going to land on,” she said. “I fell for what seemed like a long time. At that point, I thought I was going to die.”

Though she said she doesn’t remember hitting the water, she was able to swim more than 60 feet to shore.

“It’s fortunate that I’m in pretty good shape, but I don’t know that that had anything to do with it,” she said.

Chris Weir said his wife was spotted by a woman on the bridge, and he heard her calling his name. He flagged down a state trooper he knew on the scene.

A trooper pulled her to shore, and she was treated at the scene before being flown to the same shock-trauma center where she works in Baltimore.

The medical center released a statement Wednesday saying the “we are so proud to call her one of our own.”

“Angie is a fabulous nurse, and we are not at all surprised that she risked her own life to save others,” the statement read. “We are so grateful that she is OK.”

The driver of the dump truck also was taken by helicopter to the trauma center. The tractor-trailer driver was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

After the collision, concrete and asphalt spilled onto the roadway, prompting troopers to close the westbound lanes for 3½ hours as cleanup crews worked. Police said charges are pending related to the initial collision.

Chris Weir said the couple was “lucky all around.” Just hours after her fall, Angela Weir agreed.

“I’m well aware of how crazy it is,” she said.

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