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In Loving Memory
Just north of Brooklyn, Iowa is a place called Holiday Lake. This lake is absolutely beautiful, and amazingly peaceful. Yet it was still the focal point of the most haunting experience of my life. I had traveled the seventy odd miles to spend the weekend with my friend Kylie Willson, whose family has a cabin at the lake. This whole event takes place on the day of August 15, 2009, and it is not one I am soon to forget.
I departed on the hour long drive early Saturday afternoon, shortly after finishing up my senior picture shoot. The trip was mostly uneventful, and passed by pretty quickly. I had the music blasting the entire way, as I usually do when I drive alone. I don’t mind the solitary trip, because I find the passing scenery and vibrations from the road soothing to my jitters. Getting those senior pics done can be quite nerve racking.
After an hour of wind sweeping through the cab of my truck, and a mixture of rock, rap, and continuous air guitar, I finally reached the familiar signs. I’m still not sure why, but every time I see the directional signs on the roads bordering the lake, I start thinking about the NASCAR races I’ve been to in Michigan. I made the usual left turn to enter the grounds and then another left leading up to the top of the dam. As I reached the crest, I was once again revealed to the beauty of the open water, and the massive community that surrounded its shores. It took multiple tries on previous weekends to learn the exact combination of roadways that leads to the small red cabin at the top of a massive hill.
As I pulled in, the cabin doors swung open, and out rushed the three smiling young girls slowly followed by their older sister, Kylie. After a ton of hugs and hellos, I grabbed my duffle bag and we went inside to plan the day. The girls had gone swimming earlier on, but decided they were ready for a second round. I quickly changed into my trunks and we hopped in the truck to drive down to the lake. Kylie and I sat in the front to talk and get caught up from the previous days, while her three youngest siblings rode down in the back.
Once we made it to the lake, the girls jumped out and took off for the beach. It was surprisingly vacant for how sunny and warm the weather was. Kylie and I followed shortly behind and found where the girls had thrown their belongings. We laid out our towels, and walked down the beach to the water’s edge. For how nice the weather was the lake was freezing cold. It only took a few moments of splashing and joking around before we eventually got used to the temperature and dived into deeper water.
After an hour or so of swimming, laying out in the sun, and more swimming, the beach had slowly begun to fill. At one particular instant, I happened to look up towards my truck. I noticed that a small silver go-cart had pulled up next to me. A man in a bright yellow shirt was also standing there, looking in through the window. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, so I started moving into more shallow water, ready to take off if he tried breaking into it. After briefly looking over my truck, he pulled out a pad of paper and began to write. I was confused momentarily, until I realized who the man was. He worked for the security company the lake hired to enforce the rules and regulations; the laws of the land. We suddenly remembered that we had forgotten to grab the extra parking pass Kylie’s family had so I would be allowed to have my truck anywhere on the lake.
After the man had finished writing my ticket, he set it under the windshield wiper and sat back down into his go-cart. I expected him to leave, but he just continued to sit there for a few minutes. Eventually, he gave up the stake out and proceeded on his ticket-issuing excursion. As soon as he was gone, Kylie and I went up to investigate. Once I looked over the ticket, I realized that it was just a warning and it was no big deal, so being the rebel that I am, I threw it away.
The two of us were bored of swimming by now, so we stayed up by the truck and talked. After a few moments, her oldest little sister and one of her friends showed up on a golf cart. We were quickly bombarded with stories of their adventures. Suddenly in midsentence, they looked around and took off out of the parking lot. They took chase to a golf cart that had just passed by with two younger looking boys in it. After a few moments the girls came back to where Kylie and I were standing, followed closely by the two boys.
This was when I first met Scott. He had just had his 14th birthday a month before, and had just gone to freshman orientation at Linn Mar the previous day. He was tall, but shorter than me, and had long blonde hair that stretched down to his eyes. He was extremely energetic, always had a smile, continuously cracked jokes, and playfully teased the girls. I knew he was a good kid right away, but you could also tell that he was a daredevil. The other boy’s name was Caleb. He was 12 at the time, and a younger, nearly exact replica of Scott. He was just as big of a daredevil. The two were always trying to impress the girls and would do anything for a laugh. Like I said, they were good kids; they just hadn’t quiet come to terms with common sense.
Kylie’s three younger sisters, who had finally tired from swimming and diving off the dock, joined the six of us at my truck. Scott and Caleb were drinking energy drinks and I was in the mood for one as well. I asked where they got them and they told me about the store on the other side of the lake. We all decided to meet back at the cabin and go from there, so all the younger kids took off on the golf carts while Kylie and I were left to load all of our belongings into the truck.
When the two of us made it to the cabin, the golf carts were nowhere to be found. Brent, Kylie’s dad, was outside, and told us they had gone past and driven up to the store. He was upset that she had let the girls out of her sight while she was in charge of them. I told Kylie to get back in the truck and we took off up to the store, but barely half way there, we saw the others coming back. They stopped in front of me, jumped off the golf cart and rushed up to my truck. Scott thrust three cans of Monster into my window, and Caleb threw another one in through the passenger side. Before I knew what was going on, they jumped back onto the golf cart and took off back to the store.
Kylie and I followed the others down the road and when we got there, Scott ran back inside and bought a bottle of water for one of the girls. Again, proving to be one of the nicest kids I have ever met. While the girls were sitting outside, I told them all they had to get back in the truck otherwise their dad would be extremely upset with all of us. Not wanting me to get in trouble, they all jumped back in. By this time, Scott was back outside, tossed Brooke her water, and took off leading the way back to the cabin. Showing off their daredevil sides once again, the boys started trying to drift the golf cart around on the road, nearly tipping it. They just laughed and kept going, trying to impress the girls.
By the time we made it back to the cabin, Kylie’s parents were beginning to discuss what to make for dinner. Brent thanked us for going to get the girls, and making sure they were alright. After sitting at the cabin for a little while, planning out a bonfire that we were going to have that night, we decided to head back out for a ride on the golf cart. Scott said he wanted to show us where we were going to have the fire. So the four of us, Scott, Caleb, Kylie, and myself, jumped onto the golf cart and took off before the younger girls tried to tag along.
Barely two minutes after leaving the cabin everything went wrong. The cart had a back bench that faced the rear, and I was sitting at an angle, looking towards the front of the golf cart. On a particular hill that we were cresting is a blind corner, and both of the sides of the road are washed out, so you are pretty much forced to drive down the middle. We were going way too fast, and half way around we saw the truck that was coming up the hill towards us.
When we saw it, Scott, the driver, swerved to the right. Caleb, who was in the passenger seat, dove headfirst over the washouts into someone’s yard. We never collided with the truck, but when we swerved, the back end of the golf cart slid out. The back tire on the driver’s side, where I was sitting, caught a rough spot that sent the cart into a roll. Kylie never saw the truck coming, she was thrown towards the ditch as soon as the roll started. Scott was also thrown when we tipped, but he was launched straight out into the cart’s path.
I somehow stayed on as the cart rolled a few times, before I was thrown along with the others. While I was getting rolled with the golf cart, all I could see was the ground getting closer, then farther away, and then closer again, until I finally hit. I landed on my back in a washout, with my arm sticking out on the road, and the cart rolled over top of it with a bolt that stuck out and punctured the skin. To this day I have scars on my upper arm and elbow that I will most likely have for the rest of my life. When I landed my head was up, and I continued watching the golf cart as it tumbled down the hill. It eventually righted itself and coasted a ways until sharply cutting to the right and into the washout a few yards down from me.
I sat there for a moment; it took me a moment to realize what had just happened. What remained of the golf cart was nearly unrecognizable. The top had been ripped off leaving twisted metal in its place. I stayed conscious for the entire crash, but everything happened so fast I had to stop and process what had I had just witnessed. I was still wearing the flip flops and swimming trunks I had on from the beach, so my foot and legs got cut up pretty bad. After making sure I could still move, I rolled away from the road and looked back to check on Kylie and Caleb. I asked if they were ok, to which they just nodded. I could tell they were pretty shaken, but they seemed to be alright.
I looked over to Scott, who I had only landed a foot away from. His leg was twisted up under him, and his eyes were closed. I asked him if he was ok, but he didn’t move. I said it again, but then suddenly there was so much blood. It wouldn’t stop and there was nothing I could do. The truck came back down the hill and the driver got out and asked if we were all ok.
I told him Scott wasn’t moving and how badly he was bleeding, so he quickly called an ambulance. I looked back down to Scott but knew I couldn’t help him. Turning away from him was the hardest thing I have ever done. The only thing I could do was hold Kylie and Caleb as I tried to comfort them. I tried to keep them from looking, and took them a little farther up the hill so it was harder to see. I told Kylie to call her parents. Her mom works for St. Lukes so I thought maybe she could help.
I turned back to look again. Blood had soaked Scott’s clothes and pooled underneath of him, and slowly started to creep down the hill. It was a horrifying picture, and it haunted my dreams for the longest time. Farther down the road, people started showing up on quads and golf carts. They watched solemnly at the scene above, unable to help. A few took off to get the security officers and to call the police. Within minutes, dozens of vehicles loaded with people packed the hillside, including Kylie’s parents, Caleb’s family, and Scott’s grandpa.
Some of the lake residents were nurses as well, and along with Kylie’s mom they tried to slow the bleeding until the ambulance arrived. Minutes seemed like hours, and with each passing second hope seemed to fade more and more. Finally, the ambulance arrived and they loaded Scott onto a stretcher. They wouldn’t allow family in with the ambulance, so Scott’s grandpa, along with Brent followed in their truck.
Soon after they departed, I was approached by a Poweshiek County Deputy Sheriff. Neither Kylie nor Caleb had any memory of the accident, but I did. I was asked to file a witness statement for the record, which took up nearly a page of writing. Caleb and Kylie had been escorted away from the scene by their families as the ambulance arrived, so once I had finished the statement; I limped down the hill to join them.
When I got to the others, they had noticed Kylie had trouble breathing. She said her chest was bothering her, so we thought it would be best to go to the hospital as well. We went back up to the cabin where I was able to change before we left. Melea drove while I tried to comfort Kylie. Half way to the hospital she got a phone call. It was Brent, who had already made it there. That’s when we found out Scott didn’t make it. The doctors said that when the cart rolled over him it broke his neck and both of his legs. They told us he died instantly, and didn’t feel any pain.
When we made it to the hospital Kylie was immediately examined. The doctors found that she had torn some of the ligaments in her chest. She was put on steroids for a while to help it heal faster. We found out later that Caleb wasn’t hurt aside from a few cuts and bruises. More than anything he was emotionally troubled; he had just lost his best friend.
Brent took me outside to talk to me and make sure I was going to be alright. He asked me if I had called my parents yet, which I hadn’t. It was nearly two hours after the accident before I finally made the call. When my mom answered, I told her what happened and where I was at. She told my dad and said they would be to the hospital as soon as possible. They also called my sister to tell her what happened, so she and her boyfriend ended up driving down as well.
Scott’s mom and two sisters showed up at the hospital shortly after we first arrived. The rest of the night consisted of a lot of tears and many hugs. Even the staff at the hospital shed some tears when they heard the story and saw Scott’s devastated family. Now, it’s been more than six months since that horrible moment, and not a single day has gone by that I haven’t thought about the accident. Rest in peace, Scott McCarthy, you are missed dearly.