EVERETT — Nicholas McCallon had seen death in its most raw and indelible forms during two tours of duty in Iraq.
What the ex-soldier hadn’t prepared for was the death of a child less than a mile from his Everett home.
McCallon, 27, was the first person to reach the scene of a fatal crash Tuesday night in the 7800 block of Evergreen Way. A 7-year-old Everett boy died.
McCallon, his wife and young son were headed to a friend’s house for dinner when they say a black BMW zipped by them along Evergreen Way, swerving in and out of lanes.
“Nick, I don’t want you to be anywhere near that car,” Felicia McCallon remembers telling her husband.
Less than a minute later, they saw the car again, now reduced to crumpled metal on the rain-soaked thoroughfare.
Initial police reports indicated the BMW was driving erratically, and very fast, southbound on Evergreen Way when it clipped another southbound vehicle. The BMW spun and went into oncoming traffic where it was hit by a minivan.
Instinct took over for McCallon, who had been trained in providing first medical responses in the Army.
He told his wife to call 911 and he relayed his observations for medics.
The BMW driver, 30, got out of the car, yelling something about a boy.
McCallon peered through the door to see if anyone else was inside.
In the back seat were two empty child carseats.
For a moment, he thought the man was mistaken. He saw no child in the car.
His eyes then scanned the interior toward the front to what he thought was the man’s jacket.
On closer examination, he realized a young boy was strapped into the front passenger seat by a seat belt. The door frame on the passenger side had collapsed on the child. He was draped over the center console, McCallon said.
He checked the boy’s neck for a pulse. There was none.
He tried CPR with one-handed compressions, not wanting to cause more harm.
He tried again to find a pulse and realized it was too late. He had to move on.
He found the minivan driver, 75, still behind the wheel. She was bleeding from her neck.
As medics tried to help the boy, McCallon put compression on the woman’s wound and tried to comfort her.
“The first words out of her mouth (were), ‘All I remember is a boy in the window,’ ” McCallon said.
Only when he returned to his car, while his wife gave a statement to the police, did McCallon allow the magnitude of the tragedy to get to him.
Tears came over the loss of the boy. Later, he would learn the child’s name: Josiah A. Alves. He was in the second grade at Madison Elementary School.
The BMW’s driver was identified as an Everett man, 30, who was treated and released from the hospital. Police said he was the boy’s guardian.
The minivan driver also was taken to the hospital with injuries that required treatment but were not believed to be life-threatening.
Collision experts from the Everett Police Department continue to investigate.
“In many cases, people want instant justice,” Everett police officer Aaron Snell said. “Fortunately, that’s not how we operate. We need to make sure that all the evidence is reviewed before an assessment is made. This investigation will take a while.”
It is unknown if alcohol, drugs or health concerns played a part in the incident, Snell said. Beyond that, he said he couldn’t discuss details of the investigation until it is completed.
Washington law requires that child passengers use child restraint systems — car seats and boosters — until they are 8 years old or at least 4-foot-9 or taller. State law also requires that children younger than 13 ride in a back seat when it is practical to do so.
Police have not released information about whether the boy was in a child-restraint system.
Everett authorities said they appreciated McCallon’s quick actions.
“He was a witness to the accident and he provided medical care,” Snell said. “For that we are grateful. It’s a good thing he did what he did.”
To McCallon, it was a case of his military training kicking in — just as it had in combat situations in Iraq.
In 2007, he was driving an armored Stryker vehicle near Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded. His corporal, who had switched positions with him, died that day. McCallon was injured and later was awarded a Purple Heart.
Today, McCallon is taking college software classes and is working for an Edmonds company that helps veterans adjust to life after the military.
It can be a difficult transition, one that McCallon said he’s struggled with. At one point, he was homeless and his family lost everything before they could start rebuilding their lives.
On Tuesday night, he was reminded about how quickly a human life can end.
Early Wednesday morning, he celebrated the miracle of another life just beginning.
His second son, Nathan, was born healthy nearly two weeks early, weighing 7 pounds.
“I just feel like the last couple of days have been a dream and I’m going to be waking up from this,” he said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.