Hit-and-run victims recover from injury without a sense of justice
After the car struck them, Sarah Oldham’s first concern was knowing whether she could still use her legs; Emma Hill’s was to wait for help because she knew her arm was broken.
The car, honking, its passengers shouting, drove away before the two students could glimpse its license plate.
On Sunday, Jan. 24 at about 1:15 a.m., Hill, 19, and Oldham, 19, were victims of a hit-and-run on Hilyard Street and East 14th Avenue. Their parents are offering a $1,000 reward for any information on the suspect leading to his arrest, and they’ve hired a private investigator.
Hill underwent surgery on her fractured wrist a week ago. The metal plate and six screws will serve as a personal reminder of the dangers of motor vehicles.
“I have that forever now,” Hill said.
The incident fractured Oldham’s humerus in her arm and tore a ligament in her knee. But they both said they’re healing well. The two University of Oregon students both wear slings, and both have trouble sleeping at night. But it’s not just from the injuries.
“After it happened, I was having dreams about it happening over and over again,” Oldham said.
Hill now has anxiety when crossing the street — a daily routine for her. She thinks back to that night it happened, when the two were crossing the street walking home from a friend’s house.
“I looked at the driver through the windshield. He could see me and stop, but he just didn’t stop,” Oldham said.
According to the police report, the white sedan first “clipped” one their friends, Zackary Kuhn, in the ankle, but he wasn’t hurt. Kuhn estimated that the car was going about 10 mph when it struck Oldham and Hill. He also saw the license plate — possibly California, possibly numbered 05374 or something close.
Witnesses described the driver as a darker-skinned male with short brown hair. The car held two males and one female passenger.
“They don’t even know if we got hurt,” Oldham said.
“They don’t even know if we were dead,” Hill echoed.
The two have been coping with the lack of justice since that night. Police ran the plates and found no match. The case was suspended the day after due to a lack of leads.
That’s when the parents got involved. Hill’s mom, Genevieve Chesnut, hired a private detective, set up an email account and began offering $1,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest of the driver.
Chesnut said that police are still seeking a witness living at The Campus Lofts at Hilyard Street and 14th Avenue and are still running different combinations of the license plate.
Coming back to school was hard for the two victims, but the school’s Accessible Education Center was a great help to both of them, they said. They were assigned an advocate, Carrie Fuller, to help them in their academics and through their recovery. Fuller, UO’s interim support services coordinator for crisis intervention, emailed the student’s professors to work out a plan for classes. She also got them therapy referrals.
“We’ve gotten a good amount of support from the University,” Oldham said. “It was all taken care of.”
Hill said she wants to know if the driver and the passengers think about the hit-and-run every day.
“I would say, ‘I hope you can’t sleep right now. I hope something is bugging you to the point where you can’t sleep, because I can’t sleep,’” Hill said. “‘And it’s not my fault.’”
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