Police Looking for Bellingham Hit-and-Run Suspect

Hit-and-Run Pedestrian Accident

Police in the Bellingham area are looking for anyone with information related to a hit-and-run pedestrian accident that left two college students hospitalized with serious injuries.

According to police reports, Mackenzie O’Brien and Justine Phillipson, who are freshmen students at Western Washington University, were taking a bus with a group of friends to a party Friday night. After exiting the bus in the fog at around 11 p.m. near Otis Street and Abbott Street, a gray vehicle without its headlights on drove through a crowd of pedestrians crossing the street.

O’Brien and Phillipson were in that crowd and were the only two pedestrians who were struck by the vehicle, which police say may have been an older model Volvo or Honda. Police say that the vehicle that was involved in the hit-and-run should have some front-end damage that would make it easier to identify.

Serious Injuries Mean Costly Medical Bills

Phillipson sustained only minor injuries in the accident, and reports show that she was treated for cuts and bruises at the scene but was not hospitalized for her injuries. O’Brien, on the other hand, was seriously injured. The physical trauma to her right shoulder nearly severed her arm and her hearing ripped through her ear, which required multiple stitches.

According to her father, O’Brien’s humerus bone broke all the way through her skin and blood stopped flowing in her right side. Doctors were reportedly worried that her arm had punctured an artery, which would require her arm to be amputated. Thankfully, she made it through the complex surgery and her arm is recovering.

“Who would do that?” said O’Brien. “We could have been killed. Were they just going to drive off, thinking that we were dead?”

Although the group of students witnessed the accident, the fog made it difficult to identify the specific make and model of the vehicle or a license plate number. Witnesses say the car was a dark gray or green color and was a “boxy” older vehicle.

O’Brien has since been discharged from the hospital and is now recovering from multiple surgeries at home. Her family is reportedly offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction in the case.

Washington State Hit-and-Run Law

According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.52.020, “a driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury to or death of any person or involving striking the body of a deceased person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to, and in every event remain at, the scene of such accident until he or she has fulfilled the requirements” of providing personal and insurance information to the injured party.

Hit-and-run accidents in Washington state have become increasingly common in recent months, and in most cases the driver flees when the victim is severely injured, as is the case here. Because this young woman suffered such serious injuries, her medical bills are going to be even more expensive. Ideally, a person in this situation would have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM or UIM) coverage on their insurance policy in the event that something like this happens and the driver cannot be located. If they do locate the driver, then his auto insurance policy would become the source of recovery for the family.

Our best wishes go out to the victim of this awful hit-and-run accident and her family. If you have any information regarding the accident, please call the Bellingham Police Department at (360) 778-8800. If you would like to report information about the hit-and-run anonymously, please read about our Hit-and-Run Rewards Program

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.
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