B98.5. morning host Kelly Stevens over the weekend gave me the most detailed account to date of his harrowing accident last month on Georgia 400 when a wrong-way driver hit his Toyota 4Runner head on.
Stevens remembers every moment of the accident. He never lost consciousness.
He said he wears his seat belt “99 percent of the time” but for reasons he can’t explain, he didn’t do so that early morning of August 24.
Stevens was driving in the left lane southbound on 400 past Holcomb Bridge Road on his way to his job as a morning host. It was only 4 a.m., so there was not a lot of traffic.
He said a sheriff’s transport vehicle going the same direction as him flashed his lights to try to warn him a car was coming straight at him. “But I didn’t know what he meant,” he said. “By the time I saw her headlights, it was too late.”
The driver, 22-year-old Carly Royball, died on impact.
Stevens’ 4Runner flipped multiple times. He said he remembers the airbag going off in his driver’s seat but since he was not wearing a seat belt, he felt himself slipping into the passenger’s side, where the airbag also went off. Then he bounced into the backseat, where he tumbled multiple times. The impact crushed his left elbow and his left knee.
Ironically, not wearing a seat belt “may have helped me survive,” he said. “I didn’t get pinned in. I was shown a photograph of the driver’s side and it’s severely crushed in. I might have been impaled by the steering column if I had my seat belt on.”
By the time the vehicle stopped turning, it was upside down. He was on his stomach on the ceiling of his 4Runner. “I wasn’t pinned in,” he said. “I was able to move my feet. I wasn’t in pain. It’s a miracle. I didn’t even have any facial lacerations.”
And though he had shattered his elbow, he didn’t tear any ligaments so he could still move his hands.
An EMT found his phone and at Grady, Stevens called into the radio station to tell staff he wasn’t going to make it. “Responsibility kicked in,” he said. “I hadn’t been late for an air shift in 27 years.”
He is truly grateful that he is still alive and in as good a shape as he is.
“I have a new appreciation for life,” he said. “I don’t want to waste any moment of it. Thank God I was given this second chance.”
Stevens said the accident compelled him to propose to his fiancee Katie Buser on the air last week. “She’s been a trooper,” he said. “She’s been by my side the whole way.”
They spent their first anniversary of meeting each other in the hospital and the wedding is now set for October 27. Coincidentally, his new boss Chris Eagan, who started two weeks ago, will be getting married the same day.
Buser works as a social worker at a hospice where Stevens’ mom Midge was staying a year ago. That’s how the pair met. His mom died six months ago and in her final moments with Buser, she told Buser to take care of her son.
Down the road, Stevens said, he’ll be able to use his wrists and fingers but likely won’t get full range of his elbow. His left knee has a better chance of full recovery but he may end up with severe arthritis, doctors warned. He also fractured vertebrae and broke some ribs. “It’s hard to laugh, hard to cough,” he said.
“I’m taking it day by day,” he said. He calls in regularly. (Locke had Backstreet Boys’ singer Brian Littrell in today as a celebrity guest host. )
Stevens won’t be able to put any weight on his left leg for at least eight weeks, he said.
“I’m anxious to go back,” he said. “I miss the listeners and everybody in the building.”
As he was in the car going back home Saturday for the first time since the accident, he said he passed by the area where his accident happened for the first time. “It was chilling,” he said.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk