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Hit-and-run victim Damian Kevitt plans to finish his Griffith Park bike ride

by Kevin Ferguson | Off-Ramp

One year ago on February 17, 2013, Damian Kevitt was struck by a car while biking in Griffith Park. After spending four months in the hospital and having his right leg amputated, Kevitt is bicycling again. Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Last February, cyclist Damian Kevitt survived a gruesome accident while riding near Griffith Park. He was dragged 600 feet by a minivan that never stopped. The driver is still at large. The accident devastated Kevitt: his ribs were broken, he underwent 10 surgeries and dozens of skin grafts, and his leg was amputated. But he's alive, and riding again.

On April 27, Kevitt, with several charities, politicians, and as many members of the public as want to come, for Finish the Ride.  Kevitt plans to take same route and finish the ride that was cut short by the accident. He says he hopes the event will bring more attention to hit and run accidents.

Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson met with Kevitt to see how he's recovered since last year's accident.

Kevitt says his memory of the crash is surprisingly clear. It was February 17 last year, and he and his wife were riding their bikes near Griffith Park on Zoo Drive. Traffic was backed up, and Damian says he remembered seeing a light gray minivan turn into oncoming traffic to go around it. 

"The actual impact itself wasn't that bad," says Kevitt. "I saw him a split second before him and tried to get out of the way...but I ended up on the hood of his car, briefly. He definitely saw me, there was no way he didn't see me."

Kevitt says as the minivan stopped, he fell on the ground. The minivan then drove over Kevitt, crushing his ankle. He didn't realize he lost his leg until he woke up in intensive care after the first surgery. 

Despite his injuries, Kevitt said he knew right away he'd ride again. "As soon as I possibly can, I'm going to back on the bicycle and finish the ride," he said. 

He spent four months in the hospital recovering, learning to adjust to his new prosthetic leg, and learning to walk again. When Kevitt got home, he emerged with a new awareness of hit and run accidents—he says he didn't pay attention to them all that much beforehand. But he didn't come out of it angry at the driver who hit him.

"I pity him," said Kevitt. "I have bounced back and am leading a relatively normal life. I'm missing a leg. I spent months and months in the hospital recovering, so I lost months of my life. But I'm able to bounce back and move forward. This guy — unless he comes forward — he'll never be able to close on that particular incident."

Kevitt doesn't know if the driver will ever come forward, but he says the mission of Finish the Ride is bigger than that.

"If I can prevent one other person from having to go through the pain and suffering I went through with that hit and run accident, then my accident would in some way, some deep down way would have been worth it," he said.

The announcement of Finish the Ride joins a growing political discussion of hit and run accidents. in January, California State Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced AB 1532 to the state legislature. Gatto's bill would automatically revoke the licenses of hit and run drivers for six months, regardless of how severely the victim was injured.

Finish the Ride is planned to take place Sunday, April 27.  The event will include short and long distance bike rides and all donations to the event will go to the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Participants can register for the ride at Finish the Ride's website

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