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WITNESSES

Haunted by a disaster that they barely escaped

Motorists aided driver of vehicle that was crushed

Scott Wright leapt out of his Fedex 18-wheeler and rushed toward a car, crushed and covered with slabs of concrete. It was about 11 p.m. Monday, and he had been heading to Logan International Airport to drop off a load of freight.

He was amazed to discover a man, in shock and covered in blood, crawling along an elevated sidewalk.

Along with two other motorists who stopped to help -- an off-duty emergency medical technician and another man who, like the man on the sidewalk, spoke Spanish -- he helped the victim off the walkway and tried to calm him. But Angel Del Valle fought to reenter the car to get his wife.

``We tried to keep him out," Wright said. ``He kept trying to get back in."

The police began to arrive, and an ambulance took Del Valle away.

``After we were standing there for a while, the rest of us were looking up and going, `Is it really safe to be in here?' " Wright said in a telephone interview.

He got back in the truck, Wright said. `` `Why Monday night? Why 11 p.m.?' is what was going through my head."

Those who just missed being struck by the massive concrete panels seemed haunted yesterday by the chance decisions that may have saved their lives.

``I was running late," said Tara Myslinski, 32, a lawyer from Jamaica Plain who was driving to the airport to pick up her husband. ``It could have easily happened to me if I had left 30 seconds earlier."

As she came onto the connector, she realized that traffic had stopped. She saw Wright's Fedex truck parked in the middle of the road with its hazard lights on, so she stopped short. Then she saw Del Valle's car, ``absolutely flat."

``Just horror," Myslinski said, describing her reaction in a telephone interview. ``And cold fear, the need to get out of there as quickly as possible. I was looking up to the ceiling, and there was this gaping hole where the concrete had fallen from and what looked like maybe metal piping wires hanging down."

Just then, her husband called on her cellphone to say he had landed. She told him, ``Something terrible has happened." Then she lost the call.

The cars began to move slowly against the right-hand wall. Perhaps half a lane was free of debris, she said. Most drivers seemed to steel themselves against panic and focus on getting out, she said.

``I was shaking so violently I could barely keep my foot on the gas pedal the last mile to the airport," she said.

Liz Baum, a lawyer from Newton, had persuaded her teenage son to come with her to the airport to pick up his brother and father. Her son was procrastinating, but she urged him to get in the car. And then she drove fast, as usual. As she was emerging from the mouth of connector, something caught her eye in the rearview mirror. The ceiling was falling to the ground.

``I said, `Noah, look at that!' " she said in a phone interview yesterday. By the time he turned around to see, the tunnel was filled with dust. Baum pulled over, just outside the tunnel, and stopped the car. When the dust settled a bit, they saw the heavy slabs of concrete that had come crashing down. From that perspective, she said, Del Valle's car had been so flattened they didn't even see it.

``Noah and I both said, `Thank goodness that didn't hit a car,' " she said.

It was only on their way back from the airport, when she saw rescue vehicles racing toward the connector, that she realized someone must have been hurt.

By the time Suzanne Marie, a cab driver from Hampton, N.H., came upon the scene, police cruisers had arrived. She glimpsed Del Valle's flattened car, its taillights glowing from beneath the concrete.

Her passenger, who was on his way to the airport, began to panic.

``He's slamming on the partition and saying we had to get out of there," she said. She inched past the accident scene.

At the airport, ``he got out of the cab really quick," Marie said. ``I got no tip. This guy was freaking. . . . I don't blame him."

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