Mother who lost unborn child, ability to walk after hit-and-run shares ordeal

MIRAMAR, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida mother who lost her unborn baby and the ability to walk after she and her children were struck by a driver who, police said, attempted to flee the scene, said her life has been changed forever by the accident.

7News cameras captured Michelle James, now wheelchair-bound, embracing her children, 3-year-old Christopher and 6-year-old Star. She said her love for them is what drives her to walk one day.

“I am so glad I’m alive, and I’m grateful to be here,” she said.

It has been nearly three months since James and her two children were hit by a drunk driver while waiting at a bus stop along South University Drive, just south of Pembroke Road in Miramar, May 7. Police said 39-year-old Jessica Crane struck the family after she jumped the curb and slammed into the bus stop.

Star still vividly remembers the moment of impact. “The driver comes up on the sidewalk and hit us,” she said. “I remember that my mom pushed me out of the way with my brother.”

Michelle was five and a half months pregnant with her third child when she jumped in front of Crane’s 2008 Infiniti sedan. She landed face down, causing her to lose her baby.

“That part of me is not there anymore,” she said. “It was pretty hard. It really was.”

Christopher showed 7News the scar from where he broke his leg.

Star also sustained injuries. “I still got these on my foot,” she said as she pointed to scars from her cuts and scratches.

Investigators said Crane attempted to drive away. However, good Samaritans chased after her in their cars and were able to force her off the road, near the intersection of Knolls Road and Miramar Parkway. “We almost crashed trying to get her,” one witness is heard saying on cellphone video.

According to the arrest report, witnesses grabbed the motorist, took away her keys and literally sat on her until police arrived.

James was rushed to Memorial Regional Hospital. She spent months in intensive care, then rehab.

While she and her children recovered, Miramar Police officer Eloy Gonzalez came to the hospital to talk with them. “I made contact with Christopher immediately,” said Gonzalez. “We had a bond.”

Months later, the officer has become an important part of their lives. “These kids are the most wonderful kids,” he said. “I come and visit them twice, maybe three times a week. I got into this profession because I wanted to help people, and these people deserve the help.”

James suffered significant internal injuries, a shattered pelvis and major damage to her mouth. She said she will never be 100 percent again.

However, she does not harbor resentment to the woman responsible for the accident. “I don’t have room in my heart for anger right now,” she said. “I just have to focus on my kids.”

James does concede the accident has created a set of challenges for her. “It’s like learning to do everything all over,” she said as tears streamed down her face. “You have to scoot to do certain things. You have to scoot in the shower. You can’t just step in and do all of that. In a lot of things, you have to have assistance with.”

Sitting next to Gonzalez, Star said her mother has made remarkable progress in her recovery. “She’s almost better, and she’s very good, and sometimes she’s strong and sometimes not,” she said, “but she will be stronger.”

Stronger, she said, because of people like Gonzalez. The 6-year-old took the opportunity to thank the officer for all that he has done for them. “Thank you, Officer Gonzalez, for coming to see us,” she said. “A big, happy family.”

“Yes, we are,” said Gonzalez. “We’re going day by day.”

Gonzalez said James’ children have been invaluable to her recovery because they give her purpose and the will to continue. “This family here has the will to survive, that strength,” he said. “They just need help.”

James’ medical bills are already up to $900,000, and they continue to climb. Her friends have set up a GoFundMe page for the family. If you would like to make a donation, go to www.gofundme.com/23qurek.

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