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."
Whitby told CNN's "New Day" that he was a man of faith.
"I do believe, and I'm very firm in that, and I just held on to the wheel as tight as I could, tucked my head and just kept praying the whole time. After he hit, I just hoped that it would be over with soon," he said.
The crash left only two things intact: The marred shell surrounding Whitby's seat, and Whitby, who was pinned between the two trucks.
"When the second truck hit my back end, it spun my bed underneath the first trailer that I hit and continued to swing my nose around, and I guess put my nose underneath the second trailer. And as that trailer came around, it just kind of pushed me down and further into that -- that small V where you can actually see both the trailers within arm's reach on both sides. And so if they would've pushed me even a foot, it would have crushed me," 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 there were 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.
He told "New Day" he thanked God for his survival.
"I don't have the answers, and if I did, I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. When things like that happen, and what I've kinda come to realize, is that it is a miracle and that I need to take that into my life and remember it, and now I need to figure out who I need to be in this life and what I need to accomplish.
"Because how many people don't get the chance -- a second chance -- at escaping a situation like that?"