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Community Comes Together to Solve Hit-and-Run Case Involving Pregnant Woman

by on October 15, 2014 6:00 AM

Last Thursday, Elizabeth Bragg was just picking her daughter up from preschool, like any other day.

The nine-months-pregnant mother was leaning into her car, standing outside the vehicle, when she heard an echoing crash from next to her. Looking up, she saw her car door was crumpled and damaged, and an elderly woman driving a sporty red car had stopped next to her.

The woman had stuck Bragg’s door, coming “within inches” of hitting her as well. Bragg noticed the other car had lost a rear-view mirror in the collision. The driver asked Bragg about exchanging insurance information.

Bragg says she was already struck by this woman’s reaction, because she “had only glared” at Bragg. No apology. She didn't check to seeing if Bragg or her child was hurt.

Turning back to her car to retrieve her phone, Bragg told the other woman she was first going to file a crash report with State College Police. When she turned back around, the other driver was gone – and so was her missing rear-view mirror.

Bragg was livid.

“It’s a great lesson that you should never judge a person based on stereotypes,” Bragg says. “She looked like a very sweet old grandmother, but I couldn’t believe that she’d just taken off. I was filled with rage – that momma bear protective instinct really kicked in.”

The police told Bragg it was unlikely they’d be able to catch the driver with such a limited description and no license plate number. Frustrated, she asked if they might call local body shops to tell them to look out for rear-view mirror repairs on cars. Bragg says she was told they couldn’t.

Though she was physically uninjured, she later went to the hospital.

“It was five hours later and my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe,” Bragg says. “It turned out there was so much adrenaline pumping through me just thinking about.”

Bragg, filled with restless energy, took matters into her own hands, calling every body shop in State College to tell them about the incident herself. She also took her troubles to social media, writing a Facebook post about the incident and asking friends to keep their eyes peeled for a red car without a rear-view driven by an elderly woman.

The body shop calls had led nowhere. Why should the Facebook post be any different?

“By the time I went to bed twelve hours later, it had been shared over two hundred times,” Bragg says. “I had total strangers reaching out to me.”

In addition to the small army of people who had vowed to watch for a mirror-less red car, one person who lived near the site of the accident along South Burrowes Street offered to let Bragg review their personal security camera footage. Another body shop in Bellefonte called to ask her some questions and assure her they’d be on the lookout.

But the most interesting call by far was from an insurance agent, who had herself received an interesting call. The insurance agent had been contacted by an elderly woman with a sporty red car who was missing a rear-view mirror after an accident with a pregnant woman. When pressed, the driver was reportedly reluctant to share more information about the accident.

Then the insurance agent saw Bragg’s Facebook post, which had been shared by a friend of a friend.

“The insurance agent who had seen my story said I could call her at home until one o’clock in the morning about this,” Bragg says. “I was really touched by the care and concern she showed to help me figure out this hit and run.”

The insurance agent and Bragg then contacted State College police with the new information. With this, police were able to confirm the identity of the other driver and close the case.

Police say the incident was a misunderstanding and no charges will be filed. Happily, Bragg says the damage to her vehicle was completely covered.

“I feel like what we mostly hear about in the news are stories about people hurting others and not caring – but this really opened my eyes to the fact the people here really care,” Bragg says. “When people are victims like this, they sometimes feel helpless and deal with it on their own. But I reached out for help, and I got more than I ever could’ve imagined.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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