SEATTLE -- Unfortunately, we see bicyclists being hit by cars all the time.
Just in the last week, a 72-year-old man died in Bellevue after his bike was hit, throwing him up onto the windshield of a vehicle. The 28-year-old driver stayed at the scene, but in many other cases the crash is investigated as a hit and run after the vehicle speeds off.
The bicyclists that do survive often face long and painful recoveries from their injuries.
Those that wear a helmet are more much likely to live. The National Safety Council says more than half the cyclists killed in 2016 nationwide were not wearing one – and just ask Angela Sweet -- whose bike helmet saved her. It was crushed on the left side along with much of her body.
Now, 10 years later, she still doesn't know exactly what happened that morning as she rode her bike to work through West Seattle and while she'd like to have the mystery solved, she also has a message to share with other riders.
By any measure, Angela is a miracle. “I was never supposed to walk, let alone drive, let alone work, let alone be here to be able to have a conversation with you."
That's because on August 18th, 2009, Angela was found unconscious by her bicycle on the side of the road on Delridge Way SW in West Seattle.
She was rushed into surgery for a burst spleen, had 22 broken bones including 3 ribs, her left hip, left arm and 9 breaks in her face including both jaws, her nose and eye sockets. She also suffered a traumatic brain injury. “There are huge parts of my long-term memory that are just gone. I don`t remember my wedding. I don`t remember being a kid."
And, she doesn't remember what happened the morning she was almost killed, but says she was always careful. "I would only ride if it was light and dry and I wore a bright yellow jersey and I actually wore a bright orange construction worker vest over my jersey. I had a bright blue bike. I had lights on the front and back and reflectors on my pedals, as well as a hot pink helmet."
So, was Angela the victim of a hit and run, or did she simply hit a pothole or rough patch of road? The Seattle Police Traffic Unit's investigation report said, “The asphalt was in poor repair with exposed concrete underneath the asphalt with up to five-inch wide east-west gaps.” But, at the low-speed she was riding, would that account for the injuries she suffered? I think that this would be one heck of a pothole,” said Sweet. “I think I got hit by a car and if I did, it was a hit and run, but I don`t think a pothole breaks 22 bones, gives you a severe head injury and puts you into a coma. I was in a coma for two weeks, so I don`t think that`s a pothole."
And then there's the pickup truck driver who was seen standing over her by the two motorists who called 911 for help. He left the scene before police arrived without giving his name. Detectives later tracked him down. He told them that he passed Angela, looked in his rearview mirror and she was wobbling, looked again and she was down, so he stopped. He said two other cars sped around him. He told police he left the scene, because he didn't have a cell phone to call for help. Detective say there was no damage to his truck.
"This is a busy street on Delridge Way SW. A lot of people going to work, a lot of people coming home. Somebody saw something,” said Ret. Det. Myrle Carner with Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound. Investigators still believe this was a hit and run, but they need new information to prove it. "You told somebody. Somebody knows something that they were told. They just don`t forget that, so it`s emblazed in somebody`s memory and that`s the information we need,” said Ret. Det. Carner. "It`s unsettling to not know. People ask, `What do you think happened?` And, I have hypothesis, `This could have happened?` `This could have happened?` I would love to know what actually happened,” added Angela.
She spent two weeks in a coma, so she didn't know it at the time, but her family was quickly at her side. Police were able to locate them, because she carried a 'Case of Emergency’ card, something she thinks every rider should have.
She works full-time now as a research scientist, saving lives impacted by cancer.
She had to learn to walk again and has limited mobility in her left arm.
While she's glad to see there are bike lanes now on Delridge Way SW, she promised her husband one life-threatening crash was enough. “I do feel lucky. I feel absolutely 100% blessed. Like, I call it my ‘dump truck of blessing and miracles,’ because the kind of injury and the severity I had, there was a 90% that I would remain in a persistent vegetative state, or die in my coma.”
Again, this was in August of 2009 in West Seattle.
If you have any information on what happened to her, please submit an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound by calling 1-800-222-TIPS(8477), or use the P3 Tips App on your cell phone.