Miracle on the Moat: Swinney says accident puts life into perspective


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Swinney shows reporters where the accident occurred
Swinney shows reporters where the accident occurred

CLEMSON – The end of Tuesday’s practice turned into a life lesson for head coach Dabo Swinney and the Clemson football team.

Clemson student athletic trainers, managers and staff provided aid to a Clemson student involved in an automobile accident Tuesday night. The accident took place around 6:20 p.m. just as the Clemson football team was finishing practice.

Swinney was addressing his team when everyone heard a collision that took place on Perimeter Road above the east end of the practice facility. The team was gathered 300 yards from the scene of the accident, which was not visible due to trees and other growth on the side of the hill.

Seconds after the second collision, it was apparent that a car was sliding down the side of the steep embankment. The car and passenger, Clary Miles, fell approximately 100 feet down the hill coming to rest about 20 feet from the Seneca River that surrounds the Clemson football practice fields.

Upon hearing the car sliding down the hill, all Clemson players, coaches, and personnel rushed to the edge of the river. Sports Medicine Assistant Scott Crowthers, student athletic trainer Bailey Black, student managers Jack Wardlaw and Jack Sari, student coach Daniel Boyd and student videographer Eric Suttles, all swam across the river to reach Miles. Boyd and Suttles are military veterans.

“It was just crazy. Just something like out of a movie. You never even think of something like that. We had just finished practice on that end of the field and I’m talking to the team and we heard this loud, screeching noise - obviously somebody was slamming on the breaks - and then we heard this huge collision up on Perimeter Rd,” Swinney said after Wednesday’s practice. “Danny Poole stepped off to call to let people know there was a big crash. It was just like, ‘Whoa.’ I was fixing to dismiss the team and it was like timber falling. We turned around and here comes a car just coming down the ravine. It was unbelievable. It just keeps coming and it’s all the way to the moat. It’s a miracle it didn’t go in the moat. The whole team took off running. We didn’t know if the car was going to catch on fire; we had no idea. It was just kind of instinct.”

Graduate assistant athletic trainer Rachel Alterio and student athletic trainer Ana Wright also went to the scene to provide help in removing Miles from the car and onto land. The students stayed with Miles until EMS personnel arrived.

“A bunch of our trainers and Daniel Boyd - a student coach and former military guy - swam across the moat and it’s like quicksand over there just try to assess the situation until paramedics get there,” Swinney said. “Xavier Dye ran around. Nobody knew where to go because his car was all the way down. We huddled up and we just said a prayer for the situation and whoever the person was. My son Will came over to me with a big tear in his eye and he said, ‘Dad, I think that’s Clary.’ It took my breath away. Clary Miles is a kid I’ve known his whole life. He’s been on my baseball team. I’ve coached him since he was eight years old when he was my centerfielder. He’s an unbelievable young man.

“He works for us here and he’s a freshman. He works for Thad (Turnipseed) and does odd jobs around here. He’s an unbelievable young man and an unbelievable family. It’s like my own sons - I could just picture the situation. I was able to get around there to him and I called his dad and let him know it was very serious. I had no idea what to expect. They had to literally strap him and wench him up to get him. He was in a lot of pain. As soon as I saw him, he knew he I was and he knew who he was. He was moving his hands and all of that. I was talking to his parents and encouraging them all the way to the hospital that he’s probably got some internal issues, but it’s a good sign. It’s an absolute miracle that he’s alive.”

Swinney gave credit to the Clemson training staff for getting to Miles and rendering aid until EMS arrived.

“He has some broken bones in his pelvis area and some internal things he’s going to have deal with his bladder and stuff. It’s going to be a long road for him, but it’s all things that will heal in time,” Swinney said. “Our trainers did an awesome job just getting over there and trying to help out and get him out of the car. The paramedics and police did a great job, too. It’s just a miracle that we were here because there’s no telling how long it would’ve taken until somebody found him because he was literally off a cliff. It was a surreal moment for all of us on the team and just perspective of how quick things can happen. Especially, as a father. I have two sons who drive and another who’s close to driving. It’s so quick how things can happen.”

He then said it was a life lesson for everybody.

The car wound up at the bottom of this hill

“That’s exactly how I used it today. That little area has a blind spot, just like coming out of Lightsey. Just in general,” he said. “We’ve all been there and had a moment where it was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and your just thankful and lucky. I was just trying to make sure they have the right urgency and don’t take anything for granted. That’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Hopefully, it’s a good, teachable moment for everyone. All of prayers and thoughts go out to Clary Miles and his mom, Paula and his dad, Kevin. They’re just great people.”

Miles is a Clemson freshman student worker in the school’s football office. A Daniel High School graduate and classmate of Clemson receiver Will Swinney, Miles played on the summer little league baseball team that Swinney coaches.

Miles is recovering from injuries in a hospital, and his mother Paula Miles released a statement:

“I want to tell everyone how grateful we are to everyone associated with the Clemson football program that helped my son. I am especially grateful for those trainers and managers and others who swam to help Clary and get him out of the car. Thomas Austin (graduate assistant coach) rode in the ambulance with him to the hospital and that was so comforting. I am just so glad my son is alive.”

Swinney said the accident puts life and football games into proper perspective.

“It’s real perspective. I have a routine and I’m a creature that way. Tuesday night is a big night for me because I get a lot of work done. It’s like all of a sudden, ‘Who cares? I’ll figure it out.’ It’s just perspective for everybody,” he said. “You go to a hospital on a Tuesday night and you’re an ER and you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, look at all of these people and the pain.’ You can just the pain. If it hadn’t of been somebody I know, I wouldn’t have been at the hospital, but yet that same pain would’ve all been sitting there. We’re all blessed when we can wake up and you’ve got your health.”


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