A routine drive for an Ohio woman turns traumatic after a crash with a deer
For OnStar Member Helen Geiselman, driving alone for three hours from her home near Cleveland, Ohio, to Clarksville, Pennsylvania, every two weeks was routine.
Until one Saturday night last fall when the Strongsville resident hit a huge buck on Interstate 376. “It was dark out, no one was on the road and I was all alone,” Helen says.
Just seconds after the impact, an OnStar Emergency-Certified Advisor* connected in to the vehicle because the crash had triggered Automatic Crash Response.* Helen heard the Advisor’s voice ask if she was OK and was immediately comforted, knowing she wasn’t alone.
The crash caused the airbags in her Chevy Impala to go off, filling the vehicle with what appeared to be smoke. “I was screaming because I was convinced that the engine was on fire and that I was going to die,” Helen remembers, fighting back tears months after the crash. “I couldn’t get out because the airbags were blocking the door. I couldn’t find my phone. I was trapped and couldn’t breathe well.”
What most people don’t know is that when airbags deploy in a crash, a chalky substance that coats the bags to help them unwrap is released into the air. It’s a completely normal part of airbag operation, but for drivers like Helen who’ve never had the experience, that powder can easily be confused with smoke.
“I had minor injuries but I was so scared, so I begged the Advisor, ‘Please don’t leave me. Stay on the line,’” Helen says. And the Advisor did just that. She was able to calm Helen down, while assuring her that First Responders were on the way. “She just made me feel safe — she just made me feel like help was coming, like I wasn’t alone.”
First Responders arrived minutes later and had to cut away the airbags to get Helen out of the vehicle. “It was the scariest moment of my life. It was 10 minutes, but in those 10 minutes I really thought I was going to die,” she says.
The crash was a traumatic experience for the 76-year-old, who now drives back to Clarksville, where she maintains a second home, much less often. She also refuses to drive at night down that freeway.
But Helen says she will be an OnStar Member for life, because even though that November night was not one to be forgotten, she will always remember the kindness and calm voice of the Advisor.
“With OnStar, I'll never be alone in my car, and I know that,” Helen says.