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Archive for Tuesday, September 7, 1999

HELMET SAVES DAY FOR INJURED CYCLIST

September 7, 1999

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A 6-year-old Lawrence boy suffered a broken leg and concussion after being hit by a car operated by a suspected drunken driver Monday night.

The boy, whose name was not released, was hit shortly after 7 p.m. while turning into his driveway in the 1500 block of East 28th Terrace, or about four blocks west of Prairie Park School. He suffered a broken right tibia, or shin bone, and a mild concussion.

And it could have been much worse.

"The fact that he had a helmet on helped him tremendously," Lt. David Cobb of the Lawrence Police Department said. "That was the first thing I told him: 'I'm really proud of you for wearing your helmet.'"

The boy was taken by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital for treatment.

The driver -- Erika Anne Harbrecht, 19, of Lawrence -- was taken to the Douglas County Jail after failing field sobriety checks, police said. She was booked on suspicion of operating under the influence, possessing an open container of alcohol and driving without proof of liability insurance.

She was being held in lieu of $750 bond, pending an appearance this morning in Municipal Court.

Police found an open beer can under the seat of Harbrecht's Mazda 626, which struck the bike while attempting to pass. The sun was in her face as she headed west, and witnesses said she appeared to be driving slightly above the 30 mph speed limit, police said.

The impact threw the boy from his BMX bike, dislodged the front wheel and mangled its rear wheel, police said. The car dragged the bike 72 feet.

The helmet that protected the boy's head actually was given away by the Lawrence Fire Department in 1996, the first year of its helmet program. The boy since received it as a hand-me-down, said Battalion Chief Rob Kort of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, which gives away fitted helmets to children at all stations.

"He's a lucky boy," Kort said. "Without that helmet, he'd be in (a) Kansas City (hospital) for sure."

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.

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