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Off duty nurse helps family after horrific car crash

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital team members rally around family of six from Maryland who miraculously survived after vehicle rollover.

A smiling woman hugs a person wearing a hooded sweatshirt. VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s Erin Davis, RN, reunites with Selene Ollivierre, one of the children she pulled out of a vehicle that rolled over on Interstate 85. (Contributed photo)

By Kristy Fowler

Dilia Benjamin and her extended family were headed back home to Brandywine, Maryland, after a summer vacation in North Carolina. It was early on a rainy morning and visibility was so bad she pulled off at the Virginia Welcome Center in Bracey for 30 minutes to wait it out. Once the rain slacked off a bit, she proceeded north on Interstate 85.

“The steering kept pulling toward the left, and all I could think was not to brake because the roads were wet,” Benjamin recalled. “All of a sudden, the back end came around in a 180-degree turn and we started flipping.”

Benjamin remained calm but could hear the children screaming for her. All she could do was hold on and pray.

Family poses outside of the North Carolina Welcome Center on I-85.
Dilia Benjamin and her family on vacation in North Carolina. The stopped for a family photo outside of the North Carolina Welcome Center on Interstate 85. From left to right, Dilia Benjamin, Julian Ollivierre, Daphne Benjamin, Selene and Alana Ollivierre and Evans Benjamin. (Contributed photo)

Erin Davis, a registered nurse at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (CMH), was on her way to work after a stressful morning of not being able to find her keys. She was directly behind the Benjamins and saw the entire crash unfold. With shaking hands, she called for help and approached the vehicle.

The SUV landed on the passenger side. Benjamin heard a voice say, ‘Hi, my name is Erin. I'm a nurse. I've called 911. You're going to be okay. I'm going to help you.” 

Davis was able to pull all the kids out to safety through the only window that broke during the crash. Still on the phone with dispatchers, she relayed information on their ages and injuries so first responders were prepared to treat the family when they arrived. Once EMS crews got there, they were able to pull the adults out of the vehicle and transported the family to CMH.

A nurse poses with a family.
Erin Davis, RN, reunites with the Benjamin family at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, where they were transported after a car crash. From left to right: Alana Ollivierre, Daphne Benjamin, Erin Davis, Dilia Benjamin and Evans Benjamin. (Contributed photo)

After they arrived at CMH and were evaluated by emergency room staff, none of them had any injuries beyond scrapes and bruises. Davis currently works on a medical/surgical unit at the hospital but has spent considerable time in the emergency room and intensive care unit.

“You just don’t see people walk away from a car crash like that,” Davis said. “By a miracle, the only complaint I got was scratches to the neck from the lifesaving seatbelt. Life lesson: Always wear a seatbelt.” 

Once their medical needs were met, CMH team members came together to care for their physical needs. The whole family and Davis were soaking wet from being in the rain, so the team brought clothes for them to change into and flip flops for the kids whose shoes were still in the car. An emergency room nurse gave the Benjamin family meal tickets for breakfast and lunch while they waited for transportation to arrive. A security guard offered to drive them to the tow shop to get items from their vehicle.

But CMH team members didn’t stop there. Recognizing the emotional support the family needed away from home, a cafeteria worker baked a fresh batch of warm chocolate chip cookies for the kids and an emergency room nurse brought them crayons and coloring books.  An auxiliary volunteer in the gift shop donated a butterfly ornament and candy to the family, in the hopes of bringing some comfort.

A group of health care workers in front of a sitting area.
From the cafe to the volunteer-run gift shop, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital team members came together to support the Benjamin family. From left to right: Lois White, auxiliary; Erin Davis, RN, acute care; Diana Hayes, cafe; Brian “Chop” Jones, cafe; Jaden Hayes, cafe. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

“Erin's heroic actions and the way our team members rallied around this family speaks to the quality of people who work at CMH,” Mary Hardin, vice president of patient care services, said. “I’m so proud of my team.”

These acts of kindness did not go unnoticed by the Benjamins, who will never forget the South Hill hospital that went above and beyond during their time of need.
“They were all angels the way they rallied around us,” Benjamin said. “We are so thankful. We have nothing but gratitude for the staff.”

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