Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sachse woman hospitalized since being hit by go-cart on Christmas

SACHSE – It was a Christmas present no one would want, but Gloria Williams considers herself fortunate, nonetheless.

"The doctors told me I'm lucky to be alive," said Ms. Williams, who was run down by a child on an out-of-control go-cart as she stood outside her Sachse home on Christmas Day. "I am lucky."

Gloria Williams has a plate in her face, a cast on her shattered wrist and a broken hip after a Christmas accident in her Sachse neighborhood in which she was hit by a go-cart driven by two girls, 12 and 13. In this post-holiday season where many kids are testing out the gifts they found under the tree or in the driveway, Ms. Williams' accident is a reminder that go-carts aren't toys.

Experts say the vehicles – which can be designed to go up to 150 mph – should never be driven by children on the street or without adult supervision.

Ms. Williams, 43, has been in the hospital since the accident Dec. 25. She has a plate in her face, a cast on her shattered wrist and a broken hip.

She can eat only pureed food – mashed potatoes and applesauce, mostly – and doctors tell her she'll be in the hospital for another week, at least, as they evaluate her hip. She undergoes physical therapy twice a day.

"I just want to get to eat my Christmas dinner," Ms. Williams said from her hospital bed at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

Ms. Williams said she was finishing up dinner preparations when she walked outside her house to say goodbye to visiting friends. She had crossed the street to reach the friends' car and was about to return home when she saw two girls in a large go-cart with a metal roll cage speeding down the street.

She said she stepped back, but the girls, 13 and 12, were weaving in and out of parked cars and didn't appear to see her. She said they hit her at full force – many witnesses said the kart was going between 30 and 40 mph – and she flew into the air before landing against the pavement.

She blacked out momentarily and opened her eyes to see neighbor Kris Alexander kneeling at her side. He told her not to move.

Seeing the crash

Mr. Alexander had been smoking a cigarette in his open garage when the accident occurred. He saw the go-cart slam into Ms. Williams' body and speed forward into his yard, where it got caught on brick edging around his bushes. The two girls tried to dislodge the vehicle, but when they couldn't, they ran to a nearby house.

"It was horrible," Mr. Alexander said. "I couldn't hardly recognize her because of the blood. It looked like she got hit by a semi."

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 15,600 people were sent to the hospital in 2006 from go-cart accidents, although the vast majority of the injuries were to go-cart drivers and their passengers.

Go-carts come in many shapes, sizes and prices. Some reach top speeds of only a couple miles an hour while others, designed for racing on tracks, can go 150 mph or faster.

Many of the mass-market go-carts reach about 30 mph, but they can be tweaked to go faster.

Keep off streets

No matter the speed, no one should be driving the unlicensed vehicles on the road, experts say. Like "pocket bikes" – a fad that city councils across North Texas banned from streets a couple years ago – they are too light and too difficult for other cars to see.

"You should never, ever, ever drive a go-cart on a public street," said Ray Williams, who has been selling go-carts since 1988. He owns Reliable Go-Karts in Waxahachie and is not related to the injured woman.

"It is not safe, and it is not legal," he said

Mr. Williams stressed that children should always be supervised when riding go-carts. Parents should also buy carts that require a key to turn on the engine and unlock the steering wheel, so children cannot use them unattended.

After the Sachse accident, the girls returned to the scene with their families. Witnesses said members of the Williams family were arguing with the girls' families as Ms. Williams lay on the ground, waiting for the police and an ambulance to arrive. Ms. Williams was flown to Methodist.

Ms. Williams said that her husband has been trying to reach the girls' families to discuss the costs of the hospital treatment but that he has not been able to contact them since the accident.

Calls by The Dallas Morning News to the go-cart's owner, who is listed on the Sachse police's accident report, were not answered, and no one came to the door at the home Thursday.

A man answering another phone number – given to police by the 13-year-old – said he knew the driver, but she had no telephone at home and had given his number instead. He then hung up.

Ongoing investigation

Sachse Police Chief Dennis Veach said the investigation into the accident is ongoing.

Ms. Williams, an adjuster at an insurance company, said she doesn't blame the children for the accident.

"They're just kids, but the parents shouldn't have let them run the bikes in the street," she said.

Mr. Alexander said he would have never imagined such an accident could happen in his newly built, quiet neighborhood in the suburbs.

"It's a place you would like to live in," he said.

However, since the accident, he's seen other children in the neighborhood riding go-carts in the street, and he's cautioned them of the dangers.

The 27-year-old said he doesn't want to be a curmudgeon because he enjoyed riding go-carts as a kid in a field beside his house, but his father never let him ride them in the street.

"We usually listened to what my dad said," he said.