The Miracle that Changed Everything: A Car Wreck Survival Story
BY: NIKKI MICHELLE CHARNSTROM
“I distinctly remember my hands turning the wheel to the right and my car was resisting and still going straight. Next thing I knew, my car was over a cliff and the last thing I saw was a stream of water below me before I tightly closed my eyes.”
Have you ever lived through an experience you cannot find the words to explain? Born and raised Montana girl, Chaeney Latimer survived this deadly car wreck of 2010 completely unscathed — a miracle merely unexplainable. Despite the ways this accident defied all laws of gravity and science, one thing remains true: Chaeney’s life was not destined to end that day.
After finishing her sophomore year of college, Chaeney packed all of her belongings into her red Toyota Cobalt and set her sights on home. But first, she would spend Mother’s Day with family in Idaho. Before embarking on her trip, she had a decision to make — save an hour of time by taking a gravel road through the mountains with little to no cell service, or drive four hours on a paved highway with reliable reception. As a fearless 21-year-old, Chaeney chose the three-hour gravel path.
“Quickly after that, I felt this immense, un-natural force of pressure on the driver’s side of the car that somehow pushed me back up, straight into the air — going against gravity, and then back onto the road I was originally driving on. The force was so great, my car rolled at least three times until [it was] finally stopped by the mountain. When I felt that supernatural push that defied gravity, I felt three fingers pushing on my shoulder… in the direction my car was going.”
Although her eyes were closed, Chaeney could hear her car crunch with every flip on that gravel road. It was in this instant she felt safe and comforted, as if someone had embraced her in a warm hug. The touch was so loving, she distinctly recalls hearing music in her head — much like the music played at Disneyland. While she was very much aware of what was going on, peace overwhelmed her in that moment — a moment that felt like hours, but in reality, only a matter of seconds.
When her car finally came to a motionless halt, her eyes did not immediately flutter open. However, when she finally felt the need to open her eyes, she could not believe what she saw. Her car was flipped over onto it’s roof, pointing the opposite direction of the way she was driving. But, oddly enough, Chaeney was sitting criss-cross applesauce with her back to the steering wheel and the seatbelt still intact across her.
“It’s as if when my car was flipping upside down and flipping in all directions, I was being held still by that warm hug… I am not a person who bruises easily. I grew up playing sports and would sprain my ankle all the time and it would hardly turn blue. The next day, I had three fingerprint [like] bruises on my left shoulder where I felt that supernatural push of a hand to go back on the road.”
Once Chaeney realized this accident wasn’t a nightmare or a dream, she climbed out of the broken back window. Disbelief struck her as she took in her surroundings to find her belongings scattered everywhere — how not one thing hit her in the midst of all that flipping was a mystery. After finding her wallet and phone and snapping four pictures, she started to run to the nearest town. Thankfully, another car was just in sight and stopped for her.
“On the way to the town, I could feel my senses heightened. The sun was shining so bright, I could almost hear the searing noises of it. The water in the stream was so loud, I could have thought I was in a movie theater. The wildlife in the area came alive and were making all sorts of sounds. I just remember being so in-tune with my surroundings. I knew I was spared, I knew if God wanted me to die that would have been it for me. I had this overwhelming feeling that because I had been spared, I had a purpose and I needed to live out what He had for me on earth. I had been given a second chance and I wasn’t going to waste it.”
Chaeney escaped this accident without injury, yet she was still brought to the hospital when no one believed her story — leading the doctor to perform a CAT scan of her brain. While others were doubtful of Chaeney’s experience, peace never left her that day. She was sent home once the doctor’s tests brought no worrying results.
As a college girl, Chaeney was still wondering about her purpose in life before the crash. Her car wasn’t the only thing that came to a halt that day — but her search for direction and guidance as well.
“Because of this wreck, it led me down the path of knowing my Creator, what my purpose is in life, and why I exist. I get so much peace in knowing I can trust God in my everyday decisions, and know He has authority over every ‘yes’ and every ‘no’ in my life.”
As now a part of her testimony, this near-death experience led Chaeney to salvation and being re-baptized, to the promises found in an ever-constant Heavenly Father. It wasn’t until after her accident, an abundance of peace swept over her life in spirit, mind and body. Her attitude changed in an instant — finding the good in everything, rather than simply living from the hope of a better day tomorrow.
Holding onto peace in the world we live in today can be a challenge. From the daily headlines to the conversations you have with loved ones, peace is the last thing on anyone’s minds. This is when Chaeney’s relationship with God steps in.
“I think one of the best things about being a Christian and having a relationship with God is that because you believe in Him at your own free will, you have access to His power… The God I believe in created every intricate star in the universe — it is so vast no amount of human equipment can track the beginning or end of it. Yet, our God measures the span of the universe with His finger. This alone gives me peace. He alone has overcome the world, and that includes any problem I have.”
In an anxious world, peace is unheard of. However, we are not of this world. Our lives are destined for a greater time than this, and that same peace Chaeney holds onto can be ours too.
Nikki is the owner and founder of Crowned Chics. She lives in the warm desert of Phoenix, Arizona with her beloved family. If she's not ferociously clanking away on her typewriter, she's behind the camera capturing moments for her business Charnstrom Captures Photography.