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Drunk driving victim is beauty pageant contestant
Before a drunk driver ripped away the tendons and ligaments in her knees, broke her spine, and shattered her pelvis, rendering her immobile, Wilmington resident Lindsey Blythe Casey was a beauty pageant contestant.
In preparation for pageants, she had been tanning and regularly toning her body at the gym, six days a week for two hours each day, while she worked two jobs.
Last Thursday, June 3, Casey, a graceful blonde with an oval face and a glittering smile, was slated to compete in the 14th annual Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant regional finals. A win there would have earned her a shot at the nationals in Florida, where a $50,000 cash payout lay on the line.
As the Ms. Wilmington Hooters winner of 2010, she felt like her chances were favorable.
That is, until early Sunday morning, May 30, in Wrightsville Beach, when a white Honda Accord, driven by a man allegedly drunk, high and texting, ripped the opportunity out from under her.
"Right smack dab in the middle of it I got hit by a car," she said in a telephone interview last week from her bed at the New Hanover Regional Medical Hospital. "That was something big that got taken away from me."
The Honda’s driver, Jedadiah Allen Woodcock, is confined to the New Hanover County Detention Facility in lieu of $65,000 secured bond.
Police have charged Woodcock, a 32-year-old hairstylist from Rocky Mount, with striking Casey and one of her friends, Marc Miller, as they walked west in the 500 block of Causeway Drive early that morning on Memorial Day weekend.
That night, Woodcock had been drinking at beach bars, until he and a friend hitched a taxi to their Wilmington hotel, according to a police report.
At the hotel, Woodcock felt hungry. His friend lent him the Honda to go to Wendy’s on Eastwood Road, a few blocks west of the Heide Trask Drawbridge.
Woodcock told police the restaurant was closed when he arrived, so he chose to lap the John Nesbitt Loop in Wrightsville Beach instead of eating.
It was after 2 a.m.
Woodcock came through the downtown district before traveling west on Causeway Drive about the same time a streaker was garnering attention. As he traveled through the section between Island Drive and Coral Drive, the vehicle neared a group of young adults.
"That’s when everything happened," Woodcock told police.
In interviews last week, Miller, 26, and Casey, 25, said they had joined friends at the 22 North bar around midnight. They left near closing with a group of about 10, heading over the Causeway Drive Banks Channel bridge.
The bars had recently let out, flooding the street with patrons.
Miller, also of Wilmington, said the crowded sidewalk forced Casey and him to step off onto the roadway.
Just then, Miller remembers headlights. He remembers peering behind himself and he recalls a car nearing.
After that, he said, all he remembers is pushing Casey out of the way.
They were struck by the vehicle, traveling approximately 40 mph. Miller came to rest 14 feet from the point of impact; Casey settled 22 feet away. Bloody tire tracks stretched 50 feet on the asphalt, according to the report.
Their heads hit the windshield, leaving remnants of hair pasted to the glass.
The Honda’s hood was dented, and the windshield was so severely smashed it was nearly impossible to see through. Tidbits of glass lay scattered on the dashboard, underneath a pair of sunglasses dangling from the rearview mirror.
Witnesses told police the driver barely tapped his breaks and continued westbound until sirens approached, and then he pulled into the parking lot of the Landing Shopping Center and stopped.
"I remember waking up on the ground with my friend standing over me, talking to me," Miller said.
Miller said he sat up, and felt his leg was crooked, so he lay down again on the pavement. His friend snapped his broken leg bone back into place. Shock stalled the pain.
Casey bears no recollection of the incident.
Miller recalls being loaded into the ambulance beside Casey, as she writhed in pain, screaming and crying. He suspects she passed out en route to the hospital. It was suddenly quiet.
They were transported to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center. In the meantime, friends contacted their parents.
Miller’s mother, Debbie Edwards, said her phone rang in Fayetteville a few minutes after 2 a.m. She immediately relayed the news to her two sisters and her daughter, who both high-tailed it to the hospital (Her one sister, Julie Mitchell, was being readied for chemo treatment when the call came in. She made doctors remove the port immediately).
Increasingly anxious, Edwards, 56, drove to Wilmington—a 2-hour journey—with only one shoe on.
When Edwards arrived, throngs of people mobbed the waiting room, all friends of Miller and Casey.
Casey remembers opening her eyes to see doctors and nurses furiously cutting through her jeans. With severe internal abdominal bleeding and dangerously low blood pressure, doctors held back on dispensing pain medication, fearful Casey would fall into a drug-induced coma and never wake up.
"I remember looking around and I saw my mom, and I started crying because I was hurting really bad and I didn’t understand why," Casey said.
Casey’s shattered pelvis was broken in six places. Her ligaments and tendons were completely torn away from her right knee; and her ACL was ripped in the left leg.
Miller’s injuries were also severe. He underwent surgery Sunday night so doctors could remove and replace his leg bone with a titanium metal rod, screwing it into the ankle and knee joints.
His left hand is also broken.
Doctors used staples to repair their skull injuries.
In need of pelvic surgery, Casey was transported from New Hanover to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Hospital. But doctors there discovered vertebrae broken in two places. Hesitant to disturb bone alignment, they chose not to operate, and sent her back to New Hanover later that week where she remains.
Surgery will be required on both of Casey’s knees. Two operations are needed on the right one alone. Doctors say she will be wheelchair bound for six months and will need assistance walking for a year. She will spend time at a live-in recovery center, learning how to walk again.
"I was able to scoot to the edge of the bed yesterday, but I can’t get out of bed yet," she said on Sunday, a week after the incident.
She does not have health insurance; Miller does.
Miller was discharged on Wednesday, four days following the incident. He uses a walker to travel around the house. Crutches are out of the question while his hand is broken. Pain medication has kept the throbbing at bay, though headaches still abound. Months will pass before he walks normally.
On Wednesday, June 9, Miller was reached for an update just as he returned from a doctor’s visit, where four staples were removed from his head. He said he was recovering well.
Edwards is staying in Wilmington to assist Miller back on his feet.
Casey remains in the hospital. Pills and injections tame the pain. Braces stabilize her legs, encasing them from her ankles to her thighs. But she is in good spirits, partly because her friends and family are continually visiting.
Asked about her pain, she quips, "It feels like I got hit by a car."
Neither expressed hostility toward the suspect charged with the accident.
"He still gets to walk around and have a job," Casey said of Woodcock. "Me, I’m sitting here in bed. When I hurt real bad I get upset, thinking this isn’t fair, why did this happen?"
"I’m frustrated that I’m sitting around, but with everything going on with Lindsey, I haven’t really thought about it," Miller said when questioned over whether he harbors animosity toward Woodcock.
Though they never dated romantically, Miller and Casey have forged a close friendship over the years. Casey credits Miller with saving her life. Authorities told her that had he not pushed, she would have died.
"It touched me so much that he did such a courageous thing for me," Casey said.
Before doctors transported Casey to Chapel Hill, she insisted on visiting Miller. Doctors arranged to place their beds side-by-side, Edwards said, and the two of them spent about an hour together.
A distance learning student at the University of North Carolina Pembroke, Miller has a dealership license and he buys and sells cars to make a living.
Casey works two jobs—one at a local tanning salon, and another at Hooter’s Restaurant on Market Street.
Woodcock has been charged with DWI, two counts of inflicting serious injury by vehicle, driving during revocation and possession of marijuana.
He declined a request for interview.
One of the first to arrive on scene, Officer D. Gentzler, a Wrightsville Beach reservist, said Woodcock was standing next to his car with his hands clasped over his face.
Woodcock’s clothing was completely soaked in sweat and he was shaking continuously, according to the report.
"His sentences were broken up and he continued to talk about going to Wendy’s and going home," Gentzler said. "The driver started rambling on about how this all happened because he was having a hard time with family back home."
Gentzler said the suspect was having panic attacks. At the station, Woodcock was so disoriented he was unable or unwilling to use the telephone.
Woodcock blew a 0.09 blood alcohol level, a notch over the legal limit of 0.08. Police found a glass mason jar in the glove box with marijuana inside. Next to the jar were rolling papers.
A cell phone lay on the floorboard, part of an unsent text message on the screen.
Woodcock has a lengthy driving record in the Nash County-Rocky Mount area. According to the clerk of courts office there, he was convicted of a DWI in January of this year, and his license was revoked.
To support them financially through this difficult period, Casey said the Side Bar in downtown Wilmington is holding a charity event on June 15, where all proceeds go to benefit them.