Bob Jaczko was enjoying the scenery of Sedona, Ariz., while driving with a friend last month: blue skies, dark green pine trees, and towering red rocks.
But the serenity vanished in an instant when a 120-pound boulder plunged from a canyon wall and smashed through the windshield of their rented Dodge SUV, Jaczko said.
“All of a sudden I thought the car exploded,” he said in a telephone interview from his Natick home. “I thought the engine blew up.”
Jaczko, 74, is the marketing communications director for Integrated Dynamics Engineering, a tech company based in Randolph. He was in Arizona with sales manager Peter Wilson, 45, of Attleboro, for a trade show.
After setting up their booth, the pair decided to do some sightseeing and a friend suggested they drive through Oak Creek Canyon, a narrow, slow-moving road loaded with tourists.
They were only 10 minutes into the canyon when the boulder fell, Jaczko said.
He said the windshield shattered and covered them with tiny shards of glass that looked like “crystal sprinkles.”
Fortunately, the two-foot by one-foot boulder hit the dashboard first and then fell in between the two men.
“I looked down and we had dials and wires in our laps,” Jaczko said. “We stopped and looked down and I’m wearing a rock on my left side.”
Wilson pulled Jaczko from the passenger seat as a nurse, who was in the car behind them, rushed to help.
“When the rock rolled down my left arm it was like a vegetable peeler, took off all this skin,” Jaczko said.
The nurse told her husband to grab their diaper bag and began flushing Jaczko’s arm with bottled water. She then applied first aid ointment and wrapped his arm in diapers, he said.
After realizing he and Wilson were not seriously injured, Jaczko’s instinct was to dig his camera from the debris in the car and photograph the scene.
“It’s funny how your mind works,” he said. “I guess I must’ve been in shock.”
There was no cell service in the canyon but a witness had an OnStar communication device in his vehicle and alerted Sedona police, Jaczko said in an email.
The men were transported to a Sedona hospital, where they were given medical soap and “strange little sponges” to release the specks of glass embedded in their skin, he said.
The men returned to their hotel — Jaczko in blood-soaked clothes and Wilson in a hospital gown and booties — and woke up the next morning to fruit baskets from the hotel staff.
Jaczko still has some bruising on his left side, but is doing well. He said his friends joke that the purple bruising highlights his gray hair.
Though he has had some nightmares about the incident, he said he is in good spirits.
“You get sort of like post-traumatic stress business,” he said.
He said he could not believe that he and Wilson walked away with minor injuries.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, we survived this,’” he said. “I thought, ‘this is really a lucky day.’”
Jaczko and Wilson stopped at a little chapel during their sightseeing tour before the boulder incident. They also threw pennies in a lucky pond, blessed themselves with holy water, and visited a crystal store.
“I guess it was all working," he said.Melissa Werthmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.