A Mother's Worst Nightmare Becomes A Reality
Suzanne Elzey Recalls The Day Her Son, Tyler was tragically killed in a senseless, violent car crash.
The Last "I Love You"
Tyler was my youngest child and we were always extremely close. Working two jobs, volunteering at the firehouse and taking HazMat and Fire II classes kept Tyler busy. It also made the time we did have together very special. I would always wait up for Tyler to get home, unable to sleep until I knew he was home safe. When he would arrive home, we would always sit and talk - no matter how late. We would share stories about our day and just "catch up". Often times our talks were not about anything special - but more of just some quality time the two of us could enjoy just being together. Looking back, had I known what the future held, I would have recorded all of our conversations. These simply talks seem priceless today.
Tyler and I always had one rule. We never let 'Goodbye" be the last words we said to each other. Rather "I Love You" always had to be the last thing we said to each other. It didn't matter where he was going, if we were going to bed, or talking on the phone. We always made sure that "I love you" were the last words we both said to each other. That is one rule that I will always be grateful that we followed.
On Tuesday night, Tyler was working one of his two jobs at a local restaurant. He called home at 10:02 PM. He asked if he could stay the night with his long time friend. Tyler was a great kid, and he had been working so hard. Just the previous night, I had told him that he seemed so tired. He was working and studying so hard and I told him it was OK to relax a little and enjoy time with his friends. And he did just that. He told me that he would be home after Fire II training the following night. I told him to be safe, have a good night and then, we both said what would be the last "I love you" we would ever say to each other.
I will treasure that phone call for the rest of my life.
Panic Sets In
The following morning, Wednesday, April 10, I went to work as I always do. I had won tickets that morning from a local radio station for a concert being held that evening at a nearby community theatre. I was planning on leaving about 3:45 so that I could pick up the tickets and have dinner before the show.
I got busy and before I knew it, the clock already showed 3:30 PM. I had received some last minute e-mails, that, at the time, I considered "urgent". I had to do some quick research before reply to the emails. I did the research, jotting down my notes on a piece of paper to refer back to as I typed my reply e-mail.
Kent Island / QA / 1700 Blk Cox Neck Rd. / MVC w/Entrapment / Possibly 1 unresponsive.
There were a few comments to that posts - mainly offering prayers. At this time, I was still sitting in my car in the parking lot, hoping to find out what was going on before I began driving on my 55 mile commute back to the Eastern Shore. Then the Facebook post was updated at 4:10 PM:
Report Head-On with 4 patients with only 1 responsive.
4:17 PM Aviation e/r. Confirmed entrapment. 1 Pri. 4 (a Pri. 4 is a Priority 4 - a deceased victim)
4:32 PM 1 Pt. to fly to trauma. Multiple heavily trapped. 4 Pt's poss Pri. 4
When I read that post, I suddenly got a sickening feeling in my stomach. Our community is a small, close-nit community. This couldn't be good. I tried again to call Tyler. Still no answer. I sent him a text message that read "Call me right away and let me know that you are OK.". Then I began my drive home, barely able to concentrate on anything other than getting back to the island and scared of what I would find.
I have a hands-free device and could continue making calls during my drive. Before I ever reached the island, I had attempted to call Tyler 20 times. I called Tyler's step-father and told hin about the accident and asked him to help me try to find tyler. I told him to call both of the restaurants that he worked at and see if he was working. I also asked him to drive by the firehouse, thinking perhaps he was on the scene of the accident. If his car was parked at the firehouse, I would know that he was alright.
Anytime Tyler does not answer his cell and I leave a voicemail, he ALWAYS calls me back within minutes. The fact that I had made SO many calls to Tyler, and he wasn't returning my calls, told me something was VERY, VERY wrong.
Meanwhile, that sickening feeling in my stomach was becoming completely overwhelming. I barely remember driving the long commute. I called my mother, and was hysterically crying. I told her that there had been a horrible crash on Kent Island and I couldn't find Tyler.
I asked her to pray.
I also called my daughter. She lives and works very close to the crash scene. She was unaware of it, but told me she and her kids were OK and she would see what she could find out. I cried and told her that I couldn't find Tyler. She said "I'm sure he is fine. Stay calm. We will find him.".
Tyler's stepfather called shortly after. Tyler was not working at either restaurant. Nor was his car at the firehouse. By this time, I was hysterically sobbing. I knew Tyler had been involved in the horrible crash - I could feel it. I prayed over and over. Asking God to help me find Tyler.
I had finally reached Kent Island. I pulled off at the first exit and went to a local parking lot so that I could check the Facebook updates. I saw the following update:
4 in late teens all DOA (in silver Volkswagon) 1 in car was Kent Island Volunteer Fire Dept. volunteer, Man in dark colored car flown to shock trauma.
When I read those words - I felt an overwhelming, sickening pain - in my heart, my stomach - in my soul. All I could do was scream out - "TYLER!".
I was hysterically crying. Yes, it could have been one of several people from the KIVFD, but in my heart and soul - I knew it was my son. And at that very moment - part of me died.
I called my oldest son and told him (while still hysterically crying) that 4 teens had died in the crash and that one was a KIVFD volunteer and that I still could not reach Tyler - that he wasn't returning any of my calls - and that I was terrified. I could hear sudden fear in my son's voice. I think at that moment, he also knew.
Tyler's stepfather called my cell phone. I immediately told him that one of the victims was a firefighter from Tyler's station. He said "One was a volunteer firefighter, but it's not Tyler.". I felt confused when he told me that, but knew it was not true. He went on to say that the cars involved were not Tyler's car. He had assumed that Tyler would have been driving and since neither car was Ty's, he also assumed that Tyler was not involved. In my heart and soul, I knew differently.
I told him that I was coming to the crash site to meet him. Even if Tyler was not involved, the fact that they were all four teenagers, and we live on such a small island, I knew that chances were, I knew them. But for some reason, something was holding me back from going to the crash site. All I could do was drive around in circles in a local parking lot. I guess maybe I knew that as soon as I got to the crash site, I would be told the heartbreaking truth - a truth that I did not want to hear.
After what seemed like hours - but was actually only a few minutes - I started heading to the crash site. I was still sobbing, still in a total panic, and still not really aware of anything going on around me. As I turned on to Cox Neck Rd., Tyler's stepfather called again. "It was Tyler." he told me. I completely broke down, hysterically sobbing and screamed "Oh my God NO! Is he dead?". He said that he did not know for sure. He just told me that one of the teens who was already at the crash site told him it was Tyler, Harrison, Mike and Corey.
The next thing I remember was a couple of other sheriff's deputies who approached me. One knelt down and took my hand. He asked. "Ma'am, you're Tyler's mom?".
"Yes." I weeped, still barely able to breathe.
The sheriff deputy went on, "I need you to listen to me and I need you to be strong for your son. I am going to tell you something and it's going to hurt. Can you be strong for your son?"
I nodded, but I knew inside my heart what he was going to tell me and I knew I would not be able to be strong once I heard those words. Once he confirms that my worst nightmare had become a reality.
The next words I heard were, "There was a very serious crash, and your son was an occupant in that vehicle. And I'm sorry ma'am, but he is deceased.".
At that moment - an intense wave of emotion completely took over my body, mind and soul. Those words completely pierced my soul and I could literally feel my soul being ripped from my body.
Tyler was my world. And now, I am being told that I will never see him again. How would I possibly go on?
I could not accept it. I screamed. I sobbed. I couldn't breathe. I just kept screaming "No. Not Tyler!".
A chaplain was also standing next to the sheriff. He tried to console me, but how do you console someone who was just told that their precious child was dead - killed in a violent, horrific crash? He told me that he had given Tyler, and the other boys, last rites. All I could say is "I want to see him." I wanted to hold him one last time, kiss his forehead and tell him how much I loved him.
The chaplain told me that he did not think it would be a good idea. He said that Tyler would not want the last memory I had of him, to be the vision of him in his injured condition. Those words haunt me to this day. I can only imagine how he must of looked, laying there fatally injured from such a violent crash.
My world was forever changed. I would never again be the same person I was just hours before that moment.
I finally finished up and headed to my car just after 4 pm. I immediately called Tyler as I always did when I left the office. With his busy schedule changing so much, I never knew what time to expect him home, so we would always talk after I got off work as a kind of "check-in". Today, Tyler didn't answer. But I wasn't worried. I left him a voicemail, assuming he was busy and would call me back shortly.
Almost immediately, my cell phone rang. But it wasn't Tyler. It was my oldest son, Chris. "What's happening on Kent Island?" he asked me.
"I have no idea. Why do you ask?" I replied. He went on to tell me that his phone was blowing up with messages regarding a horrible crash on the island. Chris is also a volunteer firefighter and receives emergency texts to his cell phone.
I told him I would try to call Tyler again to see what I could find out and call him back. Again - Tyler didn't answer.
I looked at the Queen Anne's County Fire and EMS page on Facebook. This is what I read:
I approached the crash site but couldn't drive up close enough to see the cars. I could see tons of emergency vehicles - fire trucks, rescue squads, police cars - all with their lights on. There were also cars lined up down the road. I pulled up as far as I could and got out of my car. I was trying to dial my cell phone - I think to call Tyler's stepfather and tell him that I was there. But I could not remember any phone numbers - even his.
The Heartbreaking News
As I struggled to remember any phone numbers, I saw Tyler's stepfather walking towards me. I ran to him and again asked "Is he dead?". He told me he didn't know. I saw some law enforcement personnel and firefighters standing closer to the crash scene. The road was blocked off by a sheriff cruiser. I ran to them and said "My son was in that car. Please tell me he's alive!". The sheriff replied "Who is your son?".
"Tyler Elzey" I told him.
This was followed by total silence. All of the firefighters and the sheriff just looked at each other and did not say a single word. I fell to the ground screaming "Oh my God! I know that look - that's why you are not saying anything! He can't be dead! Not Tyler!".