'It's a miracle he's alive': Minn. man survives horrifying car crash after falling off Duluth bridge
The morning after Monday's single-car crash that sent him sailing off the Blatnik Bridge, Mark Anderson was already walking, however gingerly, down the intensive care hallway outside his room.
"It's a miracle he's alive," said his longtime girlfriend, Connie Everett, who was by Anderson's side in a room at Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center's Neuro and Trauma Intensive Care Unit in Duluth on Tuesday.
She called him Superman for the way he suffered only marginally compared to what could be feared or even expected from the drop Anderson described.
"I did a 1½ (somersault) pike, is what I'm thinking," Anderson said. "I stuck the landing."
The pickup landed on its tailgate, accordioned and settled upright near the Port Terminal exit in Duluth. Thinking about it, he admitted it's more likely the truck made a half-revolution. Anderson gripped the steering wheel with both hands, he said, as he succumbed to the void.
He thought he remembered the impact with the ground, before he said he likely blacked out and came to as a Duluth Police Department officer was announcing himself.
The nearby police officer responded to the area of Garfield Avenue and Port Terminal Drive at 5:51 a.m. Monday, according to a police news release. The drop to the ground from that point on the bridge is about 30 to 40 feet; authorities did not provide an estimate of the distance Anderson's truck fell.
Anderson said he was on his way to work at Barko Hydraulics in Superior, where the 54-year-old Duluth man helps make industrial-sized mulchers used by loggers.
Officers at the scene determined through "preliminary investigation that a small pickup ... was traveling south on Interstate 535 (toward Superior) and lost control," Public Information Officer Ron Tinsley told the News Tribune in an email. "The vehicle ... hit the guard wall sending the vehicle over the edge onto Port Terminal Drive."
Anderson described clipping along at 50 mph and gathering a head of steam for the bridge incline.
"Hindsight being 20/20, I should have been going 35," he said. "But I wasn't going 70, either."
The truck fishtailed in the overnight's new-fallen snow.
"We all know the High Bridge can be snaky," he said. "You take your foot off the gas and try to feather out of it. That didn't work. I went beak-first into the guardrail. I thought, 'I hope this thing holds me.' "
He guessed that a half-dozen heavy sandbags in the covered box helped with the mid-air rotation. The abrupt ending to the fall caused him to suffer a stiff and sore neck, a concussion, black eye, forehead cut and some broken transverse processes, parts of the vertebrae that hold muscle to spine. The bones will heal naturally, he was told.
"I'm still a little groggy," Anderson said.
Everett, 62, was certain something was looking over her partner's shoulder.
"Everybody here thought it was a miracle," she said. "The doctor wanted him to pick his Powerball numbers."
The first thing Anderson asked a nurse for as he settled into the hospital was a cup of coffee to replace the mug he brought from home but never got to drink.
Anderson is a local musician — a self-described jazz, blues and funk guitarist and ex-rock-and-roller who has had a long career lighting up stages and dancefloors across the city.
Almost two years ago, Anderson and Everett's home on the 2000 block of East Second Street burned from the basement up — sending them and one of Everett's two daughters running from the home and out into the February cold. Among other things, the fire took all of Anderson's guitars and required them to completely rebuild the home.
Ever since then they've been keen to remember where they keep their keys, wallets and phones.
That instinct surfaced following the crash as Anderson remembered asking for his phone and wallet. The officer was in possession of both, Anderson said, having found the wallet flung outside the cab by the impact.
"It was under the truck," Anderson said, "and I'd forgotten all about my keys."
A tow truck hauled his 2000 Ford Ranger to a Proctor impound yard. It's the second Ranger for the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Anderson, who said he has always felt comfortable folding his large frame into the truck's tiny cockpit.
"They're a sporty little buggy," he said, "and look how they hold up."
The incident remained under investigation as of Tuesday, Tinsley said, with no other information available.