By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
A Cody 11-year-old was hospitalized with a laundry list of injuries after being hit by a Dodge pickup Tuesday evening while he and his friends were riding bicycles along a major street in town.
The driver of the pickup, 40-year-old Jennifer Phillips, has been arrested on suspicion of leaving the scene of the crash, which left Parker DeFord with a broken leg, punctured lung, two broken ribs, several broken teeth and multiple scrapes and bruises.
Phillips, who spent 18 years as aquatics supervisor at the city of Cody’s Recreation Center, was arrested Wednesday on charges that she allegedly failed to stop at the scene of an injury accident.
Witnesses to the crash reported that a late model white Dodge pickup was stopped at the intersection of 16th Street and Stampede Avenue and was preparing to turn right when it struck DeFord, who was riding his bike, according to the Cody Police Department.
The driver left the scene of the crash, prompting police to issue a news release asking for help from the public in finding the driver of the vehicle.
On Wednesday afternoon, Phillips was arrested, and as of early Thursday afternoon was incarcerated at the Park County Detention Center awaiting arraignment, the CPD reports.
‘Oh My Gosh’
Nicole DeFord, the boy’s mother, told Cowboy State Daily that Parker is recovering, although he has been through an intense ordeal.
“(The doctors are) thinking in six to eight weeks or so he should be able to walk around,” she said. “They have him using one of those little scooter things to put his broken leg on while he can. His other leg is still bruised, but he can use that to propel himself.”
Nicole said Parker’s bicycle was completely smashed.
“(The police) showed me his bike,” she said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the wheel isn’t a circle anymore and the handlebars are all crazy.’ He was so proud of that bike. It was his first bike with gears. It was important to him.”
Nicole said it took her a few minutes after she reached the scene of the hit-and-run before she realized the driver of the vehicle that struck her son was nowhere to be found.
“I was like, ‘OK, so where’s the driver who hit him?’ thinking that they must be taking that person’s information,” she said. “When they said, ‘Well, the driver never stopped. They fled the scene,’ I think that was really when I started to feel sick – just trying to take in the fact that this happened in the first place, but the person didn’t stay.”
Much Worse Without Helmet
Nicole said Parker’s injuries would have been much worse were it not for his bicycle helmet, which was cracked completely down the middle.
“The entirety of the back of the helmet is just smashed,” she said. “And I don’t think there was a single medical professional that did not say that helmet made the difference.”
Parker was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, but has a ways to go to recover, his mother said.
“He’s been such a trooper, and he’s doing so much better today than he was, obviously, the day before,” said Nicole. “He’s really rallying, and I’m grateful that he is now comfortable. You know, for anyone being at the hospital with all the beeping and the hospital beds and stuff that’s difficult, but especially for a kid, he was just very out of his element – and being able to get him home was a big thing.”
In a Facebook post the morning after the crash, Nicole wrote that her focus is not on the near-tragedy, but instead on the outpouring of support the family has received.
“God showed up in abundance today,” she wrote. “I can sit here and focus on the driver of the truck that rammed into my son on his bike and then sped off without even a backwards glance, or I can focus on the multitude of people who immediately swarmed to his aid (and subsequently our aid that we might be able to focus our attention on him).”
Despite the seriousness of the crash, Nicole told Cowboy State Daily she feels badly for Phillips’ family.
“I recognize that she is a mom, she has her own children,” said Nicole. “There’s a part of me that is just even grieving (for) the children, you know, your mom is sitting in jail. I don’t wish or want that for anyone, or for any kids.”
After Phillips’ arrest, Nicole wrote in a Facebook post that while she doesn’t pretend to understand the reasons behind the incident, she recognized that Phillips is also hurting, and asked for prayers on her behalf.
“It doesn’t excuse what happened or mean that I think it was ok, but, grace,” she wrote.
Multiple fundraisers have been announced to help the family. A Facebook group has formed set up to auction donated items, with all proceeds going to help with Parker’s medical bills.
Additionally, a local outdoor resale shop, OAR, is donating 100% of the proceeds from sales Saturday to the family. And a meal train to provide food for the family during this time also has been set up by friends.
A GoFundMe account also has been set up to benefit the DeFord family, which at the time of this writing had raised more than $16,000.
Nicole said the repercussions from the hit and run will be with the family for some time, but the outpouring of support from the community has been nearly overwhelming.
“I’m so taken aback by how much the community has jumped into action, and just in a wonderful way,” she said. “There will be stuff beyond just his healing that we will be dealing with for a while, and so just the fact that people have stepped up in multiple different arenas has been mind blowing to me, and in a wonderful way. And I just, I’m so grateful.”