A driver barreling the wrong direction down one-way Fifth Street Southeast fled after mowing down two groups of University of Minnesota students returning home after bar close early Friday morning. Three were hospitalized.
The most severely injured, Benjamin Van Handel remains in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center. Sarah Bagley will be released Monday and Katelynn Hanson left the hospital Friday.
At about 2 a.m., Joe Bailin, his girlfriend, Hanson, and their friend Bagley left the Kitty Cat Klub in Dinkytown and were heading west toward Bailin’s apartment near the intersection of Fifth Street and 12th Avenue Southeast. Then, someone yelled. The group saw bright lights coming toward them on the sidewalk.
Seconds later, a car slammed into them, knocking all three to the ground. It continued down the block, hitting another pedestrian, Benjamin Van Handel, knocking him into a telephone pole, according to Susan Hanson, Katelynn’s mother.
Bailin stood up to check on his girlfriend, but she was dazed and couldn’t get up, he said.
“It’s surreal … until this happened it was an ordinary night,” Bailin said.
Leslie Falk, Van Handel’s friend, was walking just next to him when she heard the car coming from behind them and jumped to the side. She reached for Van Handel’s arm but missed.
After the chaos, Falk dialed 911.
The accident left Van Handel with severe brain trauma, and he is currently in a coma, according to his CaringBridge website. Doctors at HCMC are monitoring the pressure inside his brain.
“This is a very serious time for us and for his family,” Falk said.
Bagley, 22, chipped a tooth, lacerated her face and gashed her left knee so deeply that fluid seeped from her bone. Later Friday morning she received knee repair surgery, but recovery has been slow and painful.
Susan Hanson picked up daughter Katelynn from HCMC Friday afternoon after the hospital did a CT scan of her head and ultrasound of her internal organs. “They said she’s going to be OK,” Susan Hanson said. “I feel upset — I hope they catch this person soon.”
Police are searching for a white Toyota Camry or Solara, built in the early 2000s,with front-end damage, Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty said.
As of Sunday, police had not found the suspect.
Hit-and-run cases that result in severe injuries are rare, McCarty said.
“It was pretty severe — those don’t happen at the U very often,” he said.
Van Handel and Falk had been out at Blarney’s Pub with friends before the crash.
“He didn’t want me to walk home alone,” Falk said. “He’s that one person you can count on to walk you home.”
The other three students went out for drinks Thursday night to celebrate their acceptance into graduate architecture school. Hanson and Bailin plan to attend San Diego’s NewSchool of Architecture and Design. Bagley plans to attend the University of Oregon.