The roads of New Zealand are reasonably free of traffic. But accidents can happen, even on quiet country roads, as Simon Mackrell found one rainy morning in October 1990. The accident he was involved in took him both to Heaven – and Hell. This is his story.
I had worked as a fitter and welder in a maintenance workshop since December 1988. On the 19th October 1990 I was travelling to Kawerau in a vehicle, towing a sixteen-foot trailer carrying a large diesel motor. It was a heavy load.
When I left Mt Maunganui at 7:30 a.m. the weather was rainy. At about 8:20 a.m. I was approaching an under-pass at Matata when I was involved in a collision with the trailer of a truck and trailer unit. On the approach, I had been touching the brakes to slow down without skidding, since the road had become wet and slippery. I am not sure if I applied the brakes too hard, or if the discs had overheated, but the vehicle skidded and the trailer of the truck.
I knew that any truck units coming through the single lane under-pass needed to make use of the whole road to get through, and that was why I was travelling slowly and carefully. When I saw the trailer of the truck unit tracking down my side of the road, I drove as far to the left as possible, but skidded down the opposite side of the road into the wheels of the trailer. The impact pushed the vehicle backwards, and spun it around slightly. The trailer wheel’s hub dented the bonnet of the vehicle, and broke the mixer off the carburettor. The vehicle was a dual fuel vehicle, using either LPG or petrol. That day it was running on LPG, and immediately burst into flames. The impact caused the bolts of the tow-bar to shear. The trailer collided with the tank, and dropped the LPG cylinder on to the road. The gas ignited and flames engulfed the vehicle. The flames poured in through the driver’s door.
All the above happened so quickly that I panicked, and my life seemed to flash before my eyes. I fought to free myself, and could hear strange voices. Yet somehow I was comforted by the Holy Spirit saying, ‘Be calm, my hand is on you. Undo the seat beat and open the door. My protection is with you, and I will help you.’
As He was speaking I did as He instructed. I thought that the door had jammed in the frame, so I lifted the handle and rammed my shoulder against the door. The door burst open and I flew out sideways towards the road, yet I landed on my feet. I felt a hand on my collar pulling to me to my feet. I presumed that this helping hand was from the truck driver who had stopped to help me. But he said that the flames had been too hot, and that he had only helped me to my feet after I had rolled in a puddle to extinguish my burning overalls. When he touched me he was frightened, as some of my skin stuck to his hand. He told me later that he had not expected to see me come out of the vehicle alive.
He helped me to move up the road away from the burning vehicle, which was exploding in the flames. He sat me down on a raincoat on the embankment and dowsed my burns with water. I felt hot and dry inside, so I indicated the need for a drink. Following the first gulp of water, I wanted to scream in pain, but when I opened my mouth only a ‘sh’ sound came out. This was the first indication that my injuries were serious, and that I had internal burning. I learned later that I had 35% to 40% external burns, and was also burned internally from my mouth to my stomach, and had also burned both lungs.
The driver had trouble contacting the emergency services because the site where the accident happened was a radio dead spot. He fortunately managed to make contact with an approaching truck, and was able to request help. An ambulance was nearby, and came to my aid much quicker than the other services.
On the way to hospital I was thanking the Lord for everything He had done for me. As I started thanking Him, the pain and shock increased. I would have passed out, but asked the Lord for help, as I wished to continue to praise Him for His goodness in rescuing me. The pain did not go away completely but remained at a level I could tolerate. This is in line with First Corinthians 10:13 which states, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”. I believe my escape was helped by prayer, praise, and praying in tongues.
I remained conscious when they wheeled me into the Accident and Emergency at the local hospital. I was even able to chat and joke with the staff while they cut off the remains of my burnt overalls and clothing. The anaesthetist then put me to sleep so that they could prepare me for the skin grafting that I would need.
Burns patients are put into an induced coma, and placed on life support machines to monitor vital signs so that any loss of body fluids may be treated. I was given morphine, blood and plasma to prepare me for the helicopter flight to another large hospital, which has the most modern and well-equipped facilities for burn treatment.
I have two memories of this period. The first memory was during the first week. I woke from the anaesthetic sometime after one of my many operations. My body was aching all over, and I was shaking terribly. I tried to talk to the black African male nurse looking after me, but was not able to because of a tube in my mouth. The second memory happened some time during the middle weekend when my lungs collapsed one after the other, and I experienced disturbances of my heart rhythm. The medical team worked around the clock for about two days to keep me alive. At one point during this time my spirit seemed to leave my body, giving me what is known as a Near Death Experience.
It was like being in a deep sleep, in a favourite chair, and then being woken suddenly. Instead of waking and seeing normal sunlight, or normal electrical light, I was in a place that appeared to be lit with infrared lights, as if I had stepped into a photographer’s darkroom. After I became aware of the red light I experienced a chilling fear. I felt very cold, and felt myself descending into a chasm. As I descended deeper the chasm became darker, and I experienced waves of oppression, anguish, pain, agony and loneliness. It was like being tortured from within and from outside of myself. The fear and cold penetrated right through me. I put my hands to my head to comfort myself, and my hands passed right through my body.
I was in my spirit body, having shape but no form. It was then that I heard screams and cries coming from where I was heading. The smell was terrible. At this moment I felt myself saying ‘I am going the wrong way, I should be going up, this is Hell. I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord save me, please. You are the Resurrection and the Life.’ When I mentioned Jesus the place erupted with foul language, and voices telling me in no uncertain terms to shut up.
I had only got out the words ‘I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ’ when a bright light surrounded me from head to toe. The light dispelled the darkness and was full of love, peace, and joy. This gave me a feeling of security. In the light I smelt an amazing fragrance. The light came down from above, while below it, and running parallel to it was a pathway of golden cobblestones. I was lifted by what seemed to be two hands, one on each of my hips. I was drawn up the light along the path, and soon it levelled out. Before me were the walls of a huge city. It reminded me of the walls I had seen in the film Jesus of Nazareth, but instead of the walls being the brown colour in the film, these walls were multicoloured and shimmering with light. The colours were in layers, reflecting the gems the wall was made from. The beauty was amazing and glorious, more beautiful than any rainbow, or anything on Earth.
The path ended at a huge white gate that the Bible describes as gates of pearl. Both the gates and the gems of the walls are described in Revelation 21. The same light that I was moving in was also radiating out from within the city, and also contained the same love, peace, joy and warmth. As I stood at the gates, I heard amazing singing coming from within the city, voices that sang in beautiful harmony, singing to the Lord.
An angel spoke to me. I am not sure if the angel stepped through the gate, or if he was there all the time, but only when he spoke to me did I become aware of his presence. He said, ‘Return from where you came from’. I put my arms out pointing into the city and said ‘I am home. I would like to go in, to be with Jesus and my Heavenly Father’. He replied, ‘The Lord’s return is imminent. I have more to do, you are to return from where you came’. The angel was huge, over seven or eight feet tall. He was broad, and dressed in a white robe with sandals on his feet. He had a leather belt around him that held a large sword in an ornamental sheath. The belt was braided with gold and brass thread. He had an amazing presence and spoke with the authority of God.
Just as I had been drawn up the path in the light, now I moved away from the City, and it was all darkness again. I still had my arms outstretched, so when my spirit returned to my body my arms lifted up. The nurse commented to my Mum that my arms had been raised. They had wondered if I had been praying or hallucinating, but they were not sure. They comforted Mum by saying I had turned a corner and was much better. Mum wishes she had noted the time and date in her diary, because from that moment on until I came out of the coma, my healing accelerated rapidly.
A fortnight after the accident I came out of the coma. The doctors removed my respiratory tube since I was breathing well enough on my own. I still had a gastric tube, and was still attached to the life support monitor. One morning, I was trying to attract the attention of the nurse, and I accidentally ripped out a tube from my carotid artery, which is the major artery for the blood supply from the heart to the brain. If the tube is not withdrawn carefully it can damage the artery, and if the wound is not sealed with pressure a lot of blood is lost. The nurse rushed in and applied pressure to my neck at the position of the artery but was amazed to find no blood flowing from the wound and no internal bleeding. Later in the day the doctors took me off the life support monitor and left only an intravenous drip in my arm.
I was discharged from hospital on the 1st January 1991, having made steady progress, and was able to talk and pray with several patients about my faith in God.
The things that I have seen and experienced are real. They are what God did, directly or through others, in answer to their prayers of faith. Mum and I received tremendous love and support from our immediate family and friends. We also received wonderful support from our church and the pastoral team. I am also thankful for the encouragement and letters from Christians I received while in hospital.
As Christians, I believe that we should not be spiritual secret agents, but also be willing to share our good news with others.
Simon Mackrell may be contacted at:
PO Box 774
Mt Hagen 281, W.H.P.
The true story of Simon Mackrell included, with kind permission, in the free e-book BEYOND THE FINAL FRONTIER which includes 27 similar true stories, and may be freely read and downloaded from this web site.