BELLINGHAM - An 18-year-old Western Washington University freshman who nearly lost her arm in a hit-and-run was still recovering but in good spirits at a Seattle hospital Monday, Jan. 21.
The teen's family is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the identity of the driver whose car struck her during the weekend on a dark Bellingham street.
Mackenzie O'Brien, a graduate of Edmonds-Woodway High School, and close friend Justine Phillipson, 19, of Tumwater, got off a bus at 11 p.m. Friday with about eight others on their way to a house party in the 900 block of Otis Street. They were crossing the road in front of the house when a northbound car with its headlights off struck both of them from behind.
Police later told Phillipson that the car was going an estimated 30 mph, she said. She woke up moments later to a group of people huddled around her. She suffered an apparent concussion, some short-term memory loss, bruises and swelling to her leg. Phillipson was admitted to St. Joseph hospital and released within a few hours.
O'Brien's injuries were far more serious. Her father, David O'Brien, arrived in Bellingham to find Mackenzie's face bloodied and her neck wrapped in a brace. The humerus bone in her right arm was protruding into an artery, cutting off the blood flow and leaving doctors to consider amputating.
"There was no pulse, no blood getting through," David said.
So Mackenzie was taken by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for emergency surgery. The fog was too thick, David said, for a helicopter to airlift her to Seattle.
Her arm was saved, but she still has no feeling in her right hand. She will need to take a break of at least one quarter from WWU, where she has tentative plans to study speech pathology.
Accounts of the hit-and-run - the crime scene being a dimly lit street behind the Aloha Motel - were conflicting, but most agreed the car was a boxy, older model with dark gray or dark green paint.
Some witnesses told officers it was a Honda Civic. Phillipson thought it might have been a Volvo. It was too dark for anyone to scribble down a license plate. The car sped off, possibly swerving, in the direction of Samish Way.
A few witnesses scattered from the scene, Phillipson said, because they were underage, drunk and fearful of getting a citation. She hopes that if they saw anything they will come forward to police. Both victims were sober, she said.
"It's just not fair that we have to go through this, and how Mackenzie might not even get better," Phillipson said. "I want to do everything I can to help catch (the driver)."
Tips should be directed to the Bellingham Police Department at 360-778-8800. After hours, call 911.