posted by killre
It isn't so much out of respect for the dead as it is respect for the living to whom the dead were dear that I've waited almost one whole week to start ripping posthumous new ones. Someone has to.
I guess the story really shouldn't surprise me. After all, I spent more than a decade driving a big rig to many of the far-flung corners of this country and hardly a month of that time went by that I didn't see somebody get lost in a highway rest area, a feat only slightly less difficult than pulling over to the shoulder and then forgetting which way one's car is pointed.
Yet I was surprised. Not so much by the circumstances (which, as you will soon see, were striking) as by the... the... oh, how do I say this politely?... the mind-boggling stupidity. (Like I said: Someone has to.)
Upon reading the very sketchy reports of the story that follows, several thoughts went through my mind. One was, "Wow, a real life Final Destination," referring to a movie franchise in which a group of teens or twenties avoid some sort of accidental death --usually spectacular in scale while rather run-of-the-mill in nature-- early in the flick only to spend the rest of the movie dying in increasingly bizarre and creative ways. The second was, "I'll Take the Low Road," referring to a post I wrote in January 2007 about a man named James Kim, a San Francisco-based techno-weenie who managed to get himself oh-so-very dead in Oregon's Klamath Mountains after an extremely long chain of increasingly poor decisions.
The third was, "How the hell has our species survived so long?" (The answer is sheer numbers.)
Melissa "Missy" Moyer, 38 years old, from Sunbury, Pennsylvania was looking for an inexpensive vacation. She decided to visit her friend Amy Stiner, 37, who was also originally from north-central PA but had recently moved to Machias, a small town in eastern Maine, roughly 30 miles from the U.S.-Canada border and less than five miles from the Atlantic coast.
Along about the middle of last week, the two women decided to go hiking. They took little in the way of supplies, even less in the way of equipment and, apparently, no common sense. They loaded themselves and Stiner's pet pit bull into Stiner's minivan, drove to a nearby state park and started their hike. They either didn't check the weather forecast, didn't believe it, or didn't care.
As the day waned, a thick fog rolled in. At some point, Moyer and Stiner concluded they were lost.
It is here that I start to scratch my head. I am well known for splitting terminological hairs (yes, it's a word), but in this case there is a very real point to be made. The two women were hiking in a state park, so presumably they were on a hiking trail. I don't care how thick the fog is, if you are on a trail, you are not lost-- you've simply forgotten which direction you just came from.
Who knows how it happened. Maybe the dog wandered off the trail and they had to search for it. Maybe both women had to answer a call of nature at the same time and when they reemerged from behind their respective bushes, neither could remember which way they'd been going before they had to go. Maybe at some point they disagreed over which way was which and decided to compromise by not going anywhere (the pit bull, naturally, would not have deigned to break the tie). In what I think is the most likely scenario, they passed several trail junctions on the way in and, drunk on each other's company, failed to note which path they took at each one and therefore didn't know the turns to make on the way out. If so, then the fog actually had little to do with their getting lost in the woods aside from lending a ghostly ambiance to the setting. Don't worry, though... the fog will play a much bigger role later.
Chances are they either didn't have a compass or didn't know how to use it. A compass, after all, tells you only which way is north; it doesn't tell you how to apply that information. Such a device is worth less than a snow globe in the hands of a person who is liable to suddenly forget which way is "forward" and which way is "back." The two women did have at least one cell phone between them, but it either didn't have a which-the-[fork]-way-is-north-and-how-is-that-useful app or, again, they didn't know how to use it. Instead they dialed nine-one-one.
Precisely how long it took to find them is unclear, but found they were. A local volunteer fire fighter came swimming out of the fog and ushered them back to his house or the house of someone he knew or (I told you the reports were sketchy) perhaps to a house specified as the place one takes people who are literally and figurative lost in a fog. He then called a game warden or a park ranger or that night's designated picker-upper of perplexed people with pit bulls, who came to the house and drove the women back to their minivan...
...And this is where the story takes an interesting... turn. Apparently, upon dropping them off, the game warden-park ranger-designated whatever didn't stick around very long. Maybe he stayed long enough to make sure their car started; maybe not. Maybe he and the two women chatted politely for two or three minutes over the murmur of the engines; maybe not. In any case, he definitely left before they did. One can't help but wonder if, among his parting words to them, he asked the obligatory question, "Now, you ladies know how to get out of here, right?"
Because, as fate would have it, they didn't.
This is the part of the story that most makes me squint my eyes and furrow my brow. Because as critical of Missy Moyer and Amy Stiner as I've been so far, it's one thing to get lost in the woods... but, I'm sorry, it's a whole new realm of brain flatulence to forget how you ever got to the woods in the first place. Particularly the very last turn you made: the one into the parking lot. Particularly when you just made that same turn a few minutes ago in the warden-ranger's car. See, I know they just made that same turn because I know there's essentially just one way in or out of that parking lot. I know that because of what happened next: Stiner drove her minivan into the Atlantic Ocean.
Let me repeat that. Stiner... drove her minivan... into the ocean.
Adjacent to the parking area for the hiking trails, it turns out, is a boat launch, which is basically just a ramp that descends from (usually) dry land into (almost always) wet water. It is used by people who have boats small enough to load onto skeletal trailers and tow around from this lake to that river to the other bay, which in this case is Machias Bay, a craggy indentation on the map connected to a somewhat sizeable blue area labeled "Atlantic Ocean."
Yes, having already, in the woods, somewhere between left-foot-forward and right-foot-forward, forgotten which direction they had just come from, and having had to call out a search party on themselves and be rescued... they had now forgotten which way they'd driven in from (twice!), turned the wrong way out of the parking lot and --remember, now, it was foggy-- driven a minivan into a large body of water. Not just a little way, either.
Their truly misguided attempt to turn minivan into pontoon boat having ended in abject failure, you'd think the next order of business would be to get the [fork] out of the van, yes? Even if it meant breaking a window, YES? No. The magical, mystical cell phone had, uh, bailed them out before, so they went to it again. This is a little like standing in the middle of the railroad tracks while a train bears down on you and, instead of moving, dialing directory assistance to try to get the engineer's number.
Somebody somewhere probably has a more precise timeline of the events that I have discussed up until this point. Unsurprisingly, they've not posted it anywhere that I have looked, which is just as well. What is widely known is that shortly after 9 p.m. on that fateful night, 911 dispatch received its second call from Amy Stiner in a matter of hours. She said the van was in the water, water was in the van, and she and Missy were "trapped" inside. Ominously, the call cut out mid-sentence.
As horrific a scene as it is to imagine, I'm going to point out that there's a difference between being trapped inside a submerged vehicle and simply not knowing how to get out. A well-placed screwdriver against the window works wonders. For that matter, so too would a well-placed snow globe. I point this out because someone has to.
Both women drowned, of course. So did the dog. All three were found, still inside the van, in twenty feet of water, 175 feet from shore-- which is another ponderous fact. That's the better part of 60 yards. Mind you, what I'm about to say doesn't take into account tides, currents or response times, but... you could try to drive a minivan 60 yards from shore and get nowhere close. Just how fast was this woman driving through a fog that was so thick she couldn't see the Atlantic Ocean until she was already in it?
P.S.... Bud "About 762 Miles Per Hour" Selig must go.