SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - November 22, 2018 at 10:30 in the morning.
About the only traffic on the road at that point, mostly locals hustling across town for work or to meet family for a Thanksgiving Day meal.
“I had just pulled the ham out of the oven and was trying to get to work,” remembers Erik Sandel, a phlebotomist at Willis Knighton - Bossier.
But when he exited I-49 onto I-20 in downtown Shreveport, he had no warning what lay ahead.
“I saw a woman on the ground, exhale her last bit of air.”
Erik was one of the first to pull up on the scene of a violent crash. The driver of an SUV had lost control and crashed into a retainer wall, ejecting the driver from the vehicle.
“First thing that caught my eye, a vehicle in the middle of the lane and people standing around it,” points out DOTD motorist patrol member Steve Wilkinson, whose job it is to drive the area interstates offering assistance to motorists and keeping accidents scenes safe for first responders.
“As soon as I stopped, people ran up to the truck and said there were injuries and two people may be deceased,” adds Steve.
Erik and Steve, who had never met before, suddenly found themselves working together at this violent accident scene.
But it wasn’t totally uncharted waters for Steve, whose full-time job is a captain with the Shreveport Fire Department.
“I did simple triage and looked to see how many I could help,” says Steve.
The female driver was deceased, and two male passengers were still inside the SUV.
While one was alert and talking, the other was in major distress.
“There was a man hanging out of the vehicle. He was being strangled by his seat belt," describes Erik.
“I thought he was dead because I couldn’t feel a pulse."
Meanwhile, Steve got to work on the seat belt.
“I was able to cut the seat belt and he kind of took a slight breath,” Steve recalls.
The two had helped save a life in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 20.
“I believe we were there for a reason,” begins Steve, whose answer is eerily similar to Erik’s when asked why he thought the two of them ended up at the crash scene when they did.
“My faith tells me,” explains Steve, "God puts us where he wants us to be.
“My grandpa always told me,” echos Erik, “God puts people where they need to be.”