The Accident

Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

If Brian were writing this story, it would probably start at the bar. Technically, the place is called Fischer's Tavern, though Brian refuses to call it that. To him, the shot-and-beer spot in the shadow of the PATCO Speedline in Westmont, N.J., will always be "the Collmont." That's what it was called when his dad started bringing him there, sitting him up on a bar stool, when Brian was 4.

If Brian were writing this story, it would probably start at the bar. Technically, the place is called Fischer's Tavern, though Brian refuses to call it that. To him, the shot-and-beer spot in the shadow of the PATCO Speedline in Westmont, N.J., will always be "the Collmont." That's what it was called when his dad started bringing him there, sitting him up on a bar stool, when Brian was 4.

"When are you going to bring him to the bar?" Brian said.

"Leave junior alone," Tom said.

"I'm just jealous," Brian explained. Brian and his wife, Angie, plan on having children soon, when Angie finishes nursing school.

Brian left the bar shortly after 10 p.m., having turned down an invitation to a friend's nearby house party. He walked North Atlantic Avenue toward the Collingswood Speedline station. At the intersection of Atlantic and West Linden, he was hit by a car. The driver did not stop. Brian lay in the street, alive but gravely injured.

Brian Hickey was managing editor of <i>City Paper</i> from 2003 to 2008. He sat in a corner office, usually wearing his ratty Cubs hat or a Broncos knit cap (Brian is too stubborn to root only for local teams), and listening to Springsteen, classic rock, hair metal, or &#8212; sorry for putting this out there, Hic &#8212; Top 40. He slicks back his long hair, shaves irregularly, chose a rumpled white suit on his wedding day, and spends a lot of time in a bar called Krupa's, at 27th and Brown in Fairmount. At times, he's moody and impatient; when it counts, he's supportive and assuring. He's a loyal friend and a natural reporter.

Though Brian covers a lot of sports and politics, he does his best work on crime, and victims. His natural empathy, aversion to sap and, when called for, his rage, allow him to make readers care about strangers who've had unfair things happen to them.

He'd do a good job with this story.

On Monday afternoon, two days after Brian's accident, Angie is in Cooper Hospital, waiting for visiting hours to begin. Intensive Care Unit patients can receive only two visitors at a time, and only during two one-hour periods throughout the day. Angie finds this frustrating, of course. But it's nothing compared to the nightmare she experienced Friday. Emergency personnel found Brian at 10:15 p.m., with his wallet in his back pocket, but Angie was not notified of his whereabouts until 11:03 the next morning. When Brian's phone was returned to her, she saw that she'd called him 40 times (she also called friends, hospitals and the police). Capt. Richard Sarlo of the Collingswood Police says there was confusion about who would notify the Philadelphia police about Brian &#8212; instead of taking Brian's wallet, cops let medics bring it to the hospital. The hospital apparently did not think to notify the PPD until morning.

Brian's bed in the ICU is along the left-hand wall, under a window. His face is swollen almost beyond recognition, but he's identifiable by his freckled arms, and by the shock of red hair that's been left on the back of his head.

When he was brought in, Brian's brain was swelling, so doctors removed two pieces of his skull to reduce the pressure. On Monday, they brought him out of a medically induced coma, but as of press time he has not woken up. He can move the left side of his body, and Angie thinks she's felt him squeeze her hand. Doctors believe Brian may have had a stroke, but can't treat him for one yet because his brain is still bleeding. They say the worst-case scenario is that Brian won't wake up. They declined to speculate on a best-case scenario &#8212; though patients can recover from what Brian has experienced.

Last Friday night at about 10 p.m., Michael Freeman, 21, was lounging in his bedroom watching <i>Rudy</i>, when he heard a speeding car. Freeman's room overlooks the intersection of Atlantic and West Linden; he hears speeding cars often, and believes this one was traveling down Linden. He heard a crash &#8212; it sounded like two cars colliding &#8212; and then a peel-off. He looked out the window at the dark, narrow street, and saw a dark sedan pause briefly at a stop sign at Ogden Avenue, one block away, before speeding off.

Freeman went back to watching the movie, but his pitbull mix, Candy, was barking. He looked out the window again. This time, he saw a body lying beneath the only streetlight on the block. He called 911.

The operator told Freeman to see if the man in the street could talk. Freeman walked over to Brian, who lay on his stomach, his arms sprawled forward, and his iPod, phone and one shoe scattered about. He was bleeding from the nose and the back of his head, and moaning.

"Are you all right?" Freeman kept asking. Brian could not answer.&#160;

The cops and EMS arrived quickly. Freeman remembers them turning Brian over on his side to look for his wallet. Brian jerked his body away in response, as if in pain (he had suffered a small broken bone in his back). The cops interviewed Freeman at the scene, but haven't contacted him since.

Police believe the car that hit Brian was traveling down Atlantic, rather than Linden, as Freeman contends. There is a set of skid marks, about 15 paces long, just before the intersection, which police say supports their contention. Other than that, says Capt. Sarlo, "we know very little."

If Brian were writing a story like this, he'd be on the warpath to get a hit-and-run driver off the street. Police have told Angie that the driver may have gotten off the Speedline at Collingswood after a Friday night happy hour. She's asking people if they know anyone who may have arrived there at 10:10 p.m. (Anyone with information should call the Collingswood Police at 856-854-2401, ext. 101.)

More than that, though, if Brian were writing a story like this, he'd emphasize the unfairness of a guy who was doing the right thing &#8212; walking to the train after a night at the bar &#8212; getting mowed down and left to be found by a barking dog. It'd be a hell of a read. Hopefully he'll write that story yet. <p align="right">(<a href="mailto:doron@citypaper.net">doron@citypaper.net</a>) </p></div></p>

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