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Mother of hit and run victim asks for public’s help to find van driver

By Staff | Aug 20, 2009

Ryan Garrett likes to ride his bike to his girlfriend’s house.
The 15-year-old Mariner High School student has made the same trip countless times. He takes El Dorado Boulevard to Tropicana Parkway, heads west. There are no sidewalks along the way.
According to an accident report, Garrett rode on the north shoulder of the outside westbound lane of Tropicana when he made that trip Tuesday at about 10:18 a.m.
He never made it to his destination, said Garrett’s mother, Jill Kempa.
“He was riding his bike and somebody hit him from behind,” she said Wednesday. “The passenger side mirror hit the back of his head and he flipped forward. He has road rash all over the front of him.”
Garrett also suffered a serious bump on the back of his head, which ultimately had to be stapled at the hospital.
He was not wearing a helmet at the time.
The driver, who Garrett says hit him in a white work van, took off.
Someone had called 911 for her son, Kempa said, but the caller was not at the accident scene when police and emergency workers arrived.
When Kempa arrived on scene, she saw the various emergency vehicles and feared the worst.
“My first initial response was my son and making sure that he was OK and taking care of him,” she said. “It’s overwhelming. You don’t know what’s happening. All you see is a bunch of blood.”
Garrett will recover from his injuries, but Kempa’s fears let way to anger when she realized Garrett was the victim of a hit and run.
“I can’t imagine leaving a child on the side of the road bleeding, like he was,” she said.
Garrett told police that he was struck by a white work van with a red ladder attached to the roof. He described the van as a late 1990s or early 2000s model Ford or Chevy with a silver or gray grill.
He was unable to provide a description of the driver.
Kempa, who lives along Diplomat Parkway with her husband and three children, ages 17 months and 4 and 15 years old, hopes the public will help police find the driver or that the driver will turn himself or herself in.
If there is a lesson mothers should learn from all this, Kempa said it is to make sure their children wear a helmet while riding their bicycles.
Police are actively searching for the driver who struck Garrett, and are asking anyone with information about the accident to contact the Cape Coral Police Department at 574-3223 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 780-8477 (TIPS).