KITTERY, Maine — One moment Nikki Mediouni and her young family were traveling down the highway on their way to a Disney World vacation. The next day, she was sobbing on the edge of Interstate 95 following a shocking near death experience.
On Wednesday morning, March 16, the Mediouni family of Cumberland, Maine were involved in an accident involving a Maine State Police tractor-trailer and cruiser in Kittery.
Mediouni and her husband, Malek Mediouni, were driving their two young sons, ages 3 and 6, to Boston’s Logan Airport to catch a flight to Florida for the Disney trip.
It was a trip by Mediouni, a 35-year-old pharmacist, booked last October. However, when their car was pinned down by a freight truck that had just hit a state trooper’s patrol car, the family had to escape from their vehicle smoking on the freeway and ask if their trip would be cancelled.
But thanks to the quick thinking of members of the Kittery Police Department and a memorable escort, the Mediounis made it to Disney anyway.
The Mediouni family was driven to Boston by Kittery Police Department Detective Brian Cummer in time for their flight. Mediouni said officers at the scene heard one of her “distraught” sons ask if they could still go to Disney and rushed to save the day.
“It was amazing,” she said. “We’ve never had a lot of interaction with the police, and I’m so grateful to have been able to show my kids how great they can be and what they can do for the community. It makes me cry. »
Cummer said he and the entire department were eager to help the Mediounis after the crash.
“They were close to death, really,” he said. “They were very lucky. The thing is that it didn’t ruin everything for them.
Despite the severity of the accident, no one was seriously injured.
How did the crash happen?
Cummer was in his office early on March 16 when fellow Kittery Police Detective Ryan Sanford showed up at his door to tell him a state police car had been hit.
“We all went to the scene,” he said. “It was so important.”
Maine State Police Trooper Robert Flynn had stopped his patrol car near mile one on Interstate-95. Parked in the blackout heading south, Flynn’s cruiser, with blue emergency lights activated, was behind a flatbed truck that was being towed away due to a mechanical problem.
While parked, Flynn’s vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer that had drifted into the recovery lane, causing extensive damage to the driver’s side of the cruiser, police said. A National Towing driver was under the flatbed truck trying to fix the mechanical problem at the time of the crash, and he was unharmed.
The tractor-trailer, a BBX vehicle, which is a dry and refrigerated cargo company, then returned to the traffic lanes, according to a police account of the incident. Turning into the far left lane, the tractor-trailer crashed into Mediouni’s Jeep Cherokee, pinning the vehicle against the central concrete barrier of the roadway.
“My first thought was that the people behind us might hit us,” Mediouni said. “Our first thought was, ‘Don’t move, just wait,’ because there will be an aftershock if someone hits us.”
Kittery Police Lt. John Desjardins said before officers arrived, a passerby helped the family out of their vehicle by lifting the tailgate so they could escape.
“They were kind of stuck on the side of the road, and one of the detectives noticed they had luggage and a stroller,” Desjardins said.
Mediouni recalled the Good Samaritan who helped her family out of the car. The stranger had driven to the scene, parked his car along the road and stopped traffic before running towards the Mediounis, shouting above the noise to ask how he could help.
Her husband escaped from the car through his window. Mediouni said the passerby lifted the tailgate of the vehicle and removed all of the family’s luggage. She got her two children out of the car for them before getting out herself.
“We are very lucky,” she said.
No one involved in the accident was seriously injured, although some were assessed at Portsmouth Regional Hospital for minor injuries. Traffic was severely slowed in several lanes as vehicles were pulled off the road.
The driver of the semi-trailer truck was later charged with failing to turn up for an emergency vehicle and distracted driving.
‘I just burst into tears. It was such a simple gesture’
Heading to the scene, Cummer was unaware of who was involved in the crash other than the state trooper, who was trapped in his damaged cruiser when Cummer arrived.
After first seeing what was needed for those involved in the accident, Cummer’s attention shifted to traffic, which was delayed but managed by responders. Cummer said he was there about 10 minutes before returning to the station in case more calls came in.
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Cummer then received a call asking if he was busy.
Detective Sanford approached Lt. Desjardins to see if there was any way the department could help the Mediounis flee. The two thought it over and offered Desjardins’ vehicle, calling Cummer to see if he was free to drive them to the Logan airport.
“They were shaken by the accident, understandably, but I think they were more than happy to bring these boys to Disney as planned,” Desjardins said of the Mediounis. “It was truly a miracle that no one was injured in the crash.”
Although the family pondered finding a bus or train to take them to Boston, it turned out that Cummer was available.
The Mediouni family was brought to the Kittery Police Department, where administrative assistant and car seat technician Dani Lindman installed two car seats in Desjardins’ vehicle.
When Mediouni looked into the car, she saw two new teddy bears sitting in the seats of her young sons.
“I just burst into tears. It was such a simple gesture that made me feel so good,” she said.
Cummer was “really good at making us feel comfortable”
Cummer tried to divert the family’s attention from the accident and said the youngest boy fell soundly asleep as soon as the group started driving. The 20-year law enforcement veteran said police across the country perform similar gestures every day, but the majority are not made public.
“Obviously for all of us, the whole police department felt good doing it. Again, that’s the kind of life. We did it and then we were like, ‘Okay cool , we did it. What’s next?,” he said.
Before arriving at Logan, one of Mediouni’s sons asked Cummer: Would he turn on the police car siren? The detective complied, sending the two boys into a delighted delirium when he sounded the sirens.
“He was really good at making us feel comfortable,” she said of Cummer.
Cummer flew them to Logan Airport with plenty of free time, ensuring the trip to Disney would go as planned.
“The police tell us, ‘You could have died,'” Mediouni said. “So they turned a situation that was very frenetic and upsetting and could have been such a tragic scenario, they turned it into such a positive from when I was sitting on the highway crying and that I couldn’t breathe.”
Cummer noted the timing of the crash: if it had happened 10 minutes earlier, the Mediounis would have missed it completely and be on their way to Boston. If they were 10 minutes late to the crash, they would have been stuck in traffic and possibly missed their flight.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said. “They were a very nice family.”