The sidewalk of S. High Street is still painted where the West Chester Police Department marked the point at which Kristen Gilia, a fourth year communication studies major, was struck by a speeding car around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 2. Roughly 10 feet away from the first marker is a second painted circle indicating where Gilia’s body landed after being carried on the hood of the car. Gilia was walking home with a group of friends from Barnaby’s Sports Bar after celebrating a friend’s twenty-first birthday when she began crossing High Street at the intersection of Sharpless Street, just several yards away from campus and only a block and a half from reaching her apartment. According to the official police report and Gilia’s own account from the night of the accident, she was in the crosswalk and the street was clear of traffic in both directions.
“I saw a car a few blocks away near Papa John’s and the old Rat. As I was about halfway across the street I remember thinking that the car looked like it was going kind of fast,” Gilia said.
After the impact, Gilia said that she had no recollection of the accident and awoke several minutes later as her friend Katie Murray asked her to state her name.
The police markings show that Gilia was approximately just one foot from reaching the opposite side of the street before she was struck.
The police found no skid marks on the road that would indicate that the car attempted to stop or slow down. According to the police report, witnesses on the porches of nearby houses said that the car “showed no signs of braking, and was going at least 50 mph.”
“When it hit her, the impact was so hard it made a cracking noise like a gunshot, and a lot of people came out of their houses because it was so loud.”
“I didn’t think I was hurt” Gilia said, regarding when she regained consciousness. “After the EMS came and put me on the stretcher, my legs were limp and just fell off of the right side. That’s when they realized I was paralyzed on my right side.”
Temporarily wheelchair-bound, Gilia is no longer paralyzed but suffered extensive injuries including a broken shoulder, broken thumb and three hairline pelvic fractures. Gilia also underwent a three hour surgery on her right arm. Doctors inserted a metal plate with 15 screws.
It will be six to eight weeks before doctors will allow her to drive again or walk without the aid of a walker.
“I tried to walk across the street to the Bull Center and it felt like I had walked eight miles,” Gilia recalled.
A member of SGA, Gilia had offers from seven different people to take her in her wheelchair to the Sykes Student Union so that she could return to the organization’s weekly Tuesday night meetings.
“It shows you who your friends are and how many people care,” Gilia said.
Despite the serious extent of her injuries, Gilia presents a brave face concerning her accident.
“I’m angry, don’t get me wrong,” Gilia said. “It’s a nightmare and I’m in a living hell but I’m not going to frown because I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from other people.”
The West Chester Police Department was unable to provide more than statements from Gilia, a witness, and the officer’s basic narrative information from the night of the accident because the case is still open.
Forensic information is still pending on a vehicle that might have been involved in the crash, according to the police report.
Neither witnesses nor the police were able to identify a driver or vehicle on the night of the accident but witnesses described the vehicle to be a dark colored Toyota Camry or Corolla.
Shane Madden is a fourth-year history major with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at SM590676@wcupa.edu