More than two months after a car accident on Tortola left him with a broken hip, Lawrence O’Donnell tells the Daily Beast about the taxi crash. The MSNBC host, who will return to his show Monday, remembers thinking, “what a stupid way to die”:
“I have no idea what speed the other car was doing—he was probably the fastest driver on the island at that moment,” O’Donnell tells me in his first detailed interview about the incident. “He was out of control and jumped the lane…I was just overwhelmed by the noise of this crash, and all I could see was the light of the radio in the center of the dashboard, that was coming closer and closer—because the vehicle was getting crushed. It seemed like it was going on forever.”
“When something happens that is such a shocking experience, your brain slows it down,” he continues. “Your brain tries to examine—What is this? What do I have to do? What is going on? And this crash felt like it went on for 20 seconds, which is impossible, but it might have gone on for a few.
“The vehicles hit and we continued to roll down the road, kind of Indianapolis 500-style. It felt like we were in a roll-over, but the van was upright when it was all done. Watching that radio come closer and closer and that dashboard get crushed, I had what seemed an extremely long time to think about dying in this taxicab, and to think about my daughter [20-year-old Elizabeth, from his former marriage to actress Kathryn Harrold]. Then suddenly the radio stopped moving.”
O’Donnell’s brother, Michael, sustained a broken femur in the crash. While he was waiting for the ambulance — there are only two on the island, and they were occupied with his brother and the driver of the other car — O’Donnell got in touch with MSNBC, which arranged for separate private jets to medevac the brothers back to the U.S. for treatment.
During his recovery, O’Donnell said he couldn’t tolerate negative news: “I became one of those people who I’ve met from time to time who say they don’t watch the news. Too many bad stories,” he told the Daily Beast. “I never understood those people. Now I get them completely.”