Man who ran over Chester County teen and fled still at large a week later
"She's a better person than I am," grandmother Gwen Hillegas said. "She talks about how she doesn't want to meet the man, but she must forgive him." Meanwhile, police continued to search for the man who struck the girl and her mother last Friday.
Mother and daughter lay helpless between the trees. Their black Labrador mix, Frisco, took off in a panic.
Just a few moments earlier, a white pickup truck had sped toward them down the winding Chester County back road, seemingly out of control.
On a walk in their Chester Springs neighborhood around 5 p.m. last Friday, Annie Hillegas, 16; her mother, Jen; and Frisco hurried away from the street. They made it about eight feet off Art School Road, said Jen's mother, Gwen Hillegas, before the truck struck, then sped off.
Jen had a broken wrist and a bump on her head. Her daughter's condition was much worse.
"Annie was the big worry," Gwen Hillegas said. "The truck went right over her."
A passerby stopped and called 911. Annie Hillegas was airlifted to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in serious condition, her grandmother said, and underwent surgery for extensive injuries. She was later transferred to a suburban rehabilitation facility, where she was being treated Thursday.
As the Owen J. Roberts High School junior began a six-month recovery process, the driver of the truck had yet to be identified. And a week after the accident, West Pikeland Township police continued their search, releasing enhanced photographs of the vehicle in hope someone might recognize it.
Authorities said they were looking for a white man who was driving a four-door, contractor-style Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab with lettering on the door, black handles, a silver and/or black grille, black trim around the wheel wells, and a ladder rack.
If Gwen Hillegas could meet that man, she would have words for him, she said, but "it wouldn't be fit to print."
Yet her granddaughter Annie, who was awake throughout the ordeal, has a different message for the person who caused her so much pain.
"She's a better person than I am," Gwen Hillegas said. "She talks about how she doesn't want to meet the man, but she must forgive him."
At the hospital and in rehab, the teenager has been buoyed by cards and gifts from friends and family. (Annie has joked that she "didn't know that many people knew and liked me," Gwen Hillegas said.)
An honors student, avid horseback rider, and competitive skier, Annie is anxious about missing school and heartbroken about being temporarily unable to participate in the activities she loves, Gwen Hillegas said.
Annie's family, meanwhile, is grateful the girl is alive.
Jen Hillegas has been spending as much time as possible at her daughter's side. Annie's father, Lance, called her older brother, Will, as soon as he heard about the accident, and Will returned home from college to be with his family, Gwen Hillegas said.
Annie has been recuperating "as well as can be expected," Gwen Hillegas said, and the family trusts police are looking diligently for the person responsible.
"To think that somebody could do that, drive away not knowing whether they had life-threatening injuries," Gwen Hillegas said. "In an instant, my son could have lost half his family."