Williamson, of Norcross, says the moments before and after the crash were the scariest of his life. He said he was driving in the center lane of the interstate behind the blue van around 8 a.m., following his daily commute to school. As he watched the horrific scene unfold, Williamson said he got out of his car and ran to help.
The roof of the Plymouth Voyager was gone, Williamson said. The driver wasn’t moving, but a terrified teenager had blood on her and was hysterical.
“She was standing up through the roof and screaming for help,” Williamson said. “All I knew is that I wanted her out of that car.”
Williamson said he checked the motionless Aila Masud for a pulse, but couldn’t find one. He couldn’t bring himself to tell the teenager, and instead pulled her away from the wreckage.
“She held on to me and cried,” Williamson said. “She was screaming, ‘Why is this happening?’ ‘What is going on?’”
Police and firefighters arrived at the scene moments later and took Sana to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for evaluation. The teenager wasn’t seriously injured.
Williamson said he described to police what he saw, starting with a flying tire and a driver, Aila Masud, who couldn’t avoid it. Both Williamson and the Masuds were traveling in the center lane when the tire landed, crushing the van. After the impact, the van veered toward the median, where it stopped, likely with the driver’s foot on the brake.
“If she had gone flying into another lane, she would’ve hit other cars,” Williamson said. “She had nowhere to go. She was going to get it.”
In 2009, tire failure caused five fatal wrecks, according to the latest numbers available from the Georgia Department of Transportation. There are not numbers specifically on flying debris-related crashes, but they have occurred on Atlanta roads. On July 11, 2012, an 8-year-old boy was killed when a part from a tractor-trailer flew through the windshield of his family’s SUV. In January, no one was injured when a tractor-trailer hit a median wall on I-285, sending chunks of concrete flying.
Still, flying debris was the last thing anyone expected Friday. Several hours after the crash, Williamson said he got a phone call from Aila Masud’s husband, thanking him for taking care of Sana until help could arrive.
“You could hear the pain in his voice,” Williamson said. “He was still shell-shocked.”
Williamson said he’s still in shock, too. The images are still vivid, and he said he’s heartbroken for a family who lost their loved one in an instant. Anyone could have been Aila Masud, he says. “It very well could have been me.”