Man describes being struck by hit-and-run driver in downtown Ann Arbor
For a moment Wednesday, Gerald Foster said he thought he was going to be killed when a driver who appeared to be talking on her cell phone accelerated toward his wheelchair in downtown Ann Arbor.
Foster and other pedestrians were crossing East Liberty Street in a crosswalk at the South Fifth Avenue intersection, heading north toward the restaurant Afternoon Delight. As Foster reached the center of the street, with his dog walking in front of him, a sport-utility vehicle turned west on East Liberty and Foster couldn't move out of its way.
"I just kind of froze," he said. "I knew it was inevitable. I thought this is my last minute on Earth and I looked her right in the eye, just prior to her hitting me and she had her hand up to her ear, talking, and she just slammed into me."
The SUV struck Foster's motorized wheelchair and right leg, he said. He was knocked to the street. His 2-year-old rat terrier Sarge was not hurt. Foster yelled and looked up at the driver, who "just hit the gas and took off," he said.
Witnesses rushed to Foster's aid and called 911 after the 3 p.m. accident. Foster refused medical treatment, but ultimately went to the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System on Thursday morning to be checked out because his body was aching, he said. Ann Arbor police later caught up with a 77-year-old Ann Arbor woman believed to be the driver of the SUV, a traffic crash report says. She told police she was "unaware of the crash," the report says, and "would have stopped if she had hit someone." The report also says, the woman "stated she was not on her cell phone, but did admit to being in the area of question."
Police said Friday they are seeking charges against the driver. AnnArbor.com is not identifying the woman because she hasn't been arrested or charged.
Prior to the collision
Foster, a U.S. Army veteran who volunteers at the VA hospital, has lived in Ann Arbor for two years and walks his dog downtown several times a day. Foster, 63, has been using a wheelchair for the past couple of years because of medical conditions, including arthritis and respiratory problems. He's aware of the dangers pedestrians face, particularly those using wheelchairs or walkers.
"I've had many close calls," he said. "And 90 percent of the time, it's people on cell phones that aren't paying attention."
Foster said the woman who struck him also appeared to be distracted by another driver prior to turning onto East Liberty. The woman was honking and making a hand motion at a driver who turned the wrong way on South Fifth Avenue, he said. Foster said he is struggling to understand why the woman would leave the scene.
"I just can't imagine a person that doesn't have any conscience," he said.
Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.