Then the real horror came: the sight of another tractor-trailer zooming straight toward him.
"When I saw those lights coming, I knew he was going to hit me," Whitby said.
"And then I closed my eyes and prayed that everything turned out OK. That was all I could do."
He gripped the steering wheel tightly as the second semi smashed through his pickup, crushing it like a soda can.
"It was just metal crunching and glass. It was just all fast and loud."
The crash left only two things intact: The marred shell surrounding Whitby's seat, and Whitby, who was pinned between the two trucks.
"I got scared of the possibility it could have been the end," the 27-year-old father said.
But he was alive. And alert. And nearly scratch-free.
Whitby was part of a 26-vehicle pileup Saturday on Interstate 84 outside Baker City, Oregon.
"This is the biggest crash I have seen in a while," Oregon State Police Sgt. Kyle Hove said. "It was extremely slick out there. One semi that spun around on the black ice started the chain reaction."
About a dozen people were injured, including two seriously. But no fatalities.
"It's surprising no one died in this," Hove said.
Before trying to wiggle out, Whitby decided to let the sound of traffic subside "to make sure things were OK."
Then passers-by came to help. "One guy pulled my feet out just enough so I could slide out of the car."
Whitby's injuries? A bruise on his left eyebrow and a few scratches on his right hand.