BATTLE GROUND, Wash. – A 16-year-old boy who was hit by a car while waiting for a school bus and found 90 minutes later by a tow truck driver is expected to survive his severe injuries.
Justin Carey’s parents credit the tow truck driver and their faith with saving their son’s life.
“That was divine intervention,” said Jim Carey, Justin’s father. “I believe God really saved his strength until he found him.”
Clark County sheriff’s deputies said Justin Carey was apparently waiting for the school bus on a rural road just north of Battle Ground around 7:10 a.m. on Monday. That’s when a woman driving a Nissan Maxima lost control of the car and drove about 100 yards down a ditch before crashing into a fence, investigators said.
At some point the car hit Carey and he was thrown into some nearby bushes. His legs were broken and he lost a lot of blood, according to his doctors.
“That’s why he was weak. That’s why he couldn’t call out vigorously at the time,” said Dr. George Dulabon, “because he had lost so much blood from the ongoing bleeding from the femoral artery, and that was still bleeding on our scan here, so that was continuing to bleed.”
Carey did not suffer any injuries to his brain, spine or internal organs, doctors said.
The driver of the Maxima, Shaun Johnson, gave no indication to deputies that her car hit someone. She suffered a broken arm.
At around 8:40 a.m., 90 minutes after the crash, tow truck driver Charlie Barrett was pulling Johnson's car out of the ditch when he heard someone crying for help. He found Carey lying in the bushes.
"The vehicle was down in a ditch amongst a bunch of berry bushes, and I heard this faint 'help,'" Barrett told KATU on Monday. "And I said 'excuse me?' And he yelled back help again, and it took me probably a good five or six minutes in order to find him, and he was actually not more than about five feet from the car. He was underneath the berry bushes."
Carey’s parents have not yet spoken with Barrett, but they said they’d like to thank him.
“I want to thank him profusely. He saved my son’s life. There’s no amount of thanks in the world that could cover what he did for us,” said Janette Chumley, Carey’s mom. “There’s no doubt about it. He saved Justin’s life.”
Carey’s parents said their son has a lot of rehabilitation ahead of him but they believe he’s ready for it.
“He’s a strong kid. I don’t like seeing him there, but I know he’s going to come out of it with stripes,” said his father Jim.
Their son has been through several surgeries already and has another scheduled for Wednesday.
Outpouring of support
Carey’s teachers and classmates describe him as a good kid.
He is a member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at Battle Ground High School. Retired Air Force Colonel Brian Brown considers Carey a strong part of the JROTC family.
“He is a fine young man,” said Brown. “Justin Carey is one of the nicest, kindest students. He’s a very good student.”
Brown said Carey has aspirations of serving in the military someday.
Jose Ortega is a member of the JROTC and a friend of Carey’s.
“I look up to him a lot actually, as a person, (because) he’s a really nice kid and has a lot of friends,” said Ortega. “He’s a funny guy. He likes to talk a lot like me and we always get along really great.”
Brown said he told Ortega and the other JROTC members about what happened to Carey on Monday. He believes Carey’s inner strength will help him recover.
“To be able to cry out for help, it probably took everything inside of him just to be able to muster up deep and to get his voice out with the tremendous pain and trauma he was experiencing at the moment,” Brown said.
Investigators are looking into how the driver, Shaun Johnson, could have hit someone with her car and not realize what had happened.
“That’s a very valid question and something the investigators will be looking at,” said Sgt. Fred Neiman with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Johnson has not been charged with a crime. She told investigators that she didn’t remember hitting anyone when her car crashed. She was released from the hospital on Monday with a broken arm.
A woman answered the door at Johnson’s home on Tuesday and told KATU that Johnson didn’t want to talk about what happened.
Investigators are also looking into why Johnson’s car left the road and went into the ditch.
“I don’t know how the visibility factors would play out, seeing as she was traveling in a ditch. It wasn’t like a car traveling down the normal travel lane of the highway,” said Neiman. “She was in the ditch and traveling from what I can see probably a pretty significant speed.”
It’s unclear where Carey was standing when he was hit. Investigators hope to learn more about what happened when Carey is well enough to talk to them.