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York hit-and-run victim fights anguish

Laura Mathieu’s memories of March 31 are painfully vivid.

Her routine drive to work in Charlotte became a desperate crawl for survival when a speeding driver rammed into the back of her Ford Ranger on Interstate 77 around 4:30 a.m.

Mathieu’s truck flipped and skidded into the wall that divides southbound and northbound lanes.

When the vehicle stopped, she was still strapped in her seatbelt.

“All I could think of was getting out of the vehicle,” she said.

Laura struggled to get out by climbing over to the passenger’s side. She began shouting for help.

That’s when an off-duty paramedic rushed to the truck, instructing Laura to “hold on,” she said. The paramedic climbed on top of the truck, held the passenger door open and helped Laura crawl out.

“If it wasn’t for him, I would have still been trapped in the truck,” she said.

The 39-year-old York mother of two can recall her ordeal with excruciating precision. But what she can’t recall – what she doesn’t even know – is who hit her.

“Whoever hit me didn’t even stop to see if I was OK,” Laura said. “They just kept going.”

She and her family are looking for anyone with information to come forward.

“They had to have damage to their vehicle the way they hit me,” Laura said through tears. “As hard as they hit me and as much damage as they did to the back of my truck, they have to have a lot of front-end damage.”

Troopers who responded told Laura they couldn’t believe she escaped alive, she said. The truck’s front bumper flops to the ground. The engine’s hood is out of place. The hitch is missing bolts. The back bumper hangs on by a wire harness.

As for her injuries, Laura wears a white band on her arm to cover torn flesh.

The more she speaks of the accident, the more tears fall.

Laura’s anguish “is a daily occurrence,” said Ronald Mathieu, her husband. “I think somebody should be held accountable for it. This is a crime, too.”

Ronald, 40, almost lost the woman “who means everything to me.”

“(I) was grateful that I had a wife,” he said.

Ronald is upset that officials haven’t looked at the interstate cameras that he says may be able to identify the car that hit Laura.

But officials say it wouldn’t help.

The cameras are real time only and refresh automatically, meaning officials can’t rewind them, according to Stanley Shealy, public information officer with the S.C. Department of Transportation.

“Our cameras do not record” and wouldn’t offer insight into the accident, Shealy said.

Officials will not comment on the specifics of the case so as not to “compromise” the investigation, said Lance Cpl. Billy Elder with the S.C. Highway Patrol.

Days after the accident, the Mathieus are still trying to cope. It hasn’t been easy. Last Friday was the first time Laura was able to drive again.

“It was tough,” she said. “When something like this happens, it just literally takes everything you have away from you. You think you’re strong, but you’re not.”

She’s just getting to the point where she can dress herself again. Doctors have diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her youngest son, 17-year-old Matthew Alexander, has taken care of her. She calls him her “savior.”

“I guess it’s just an instinct when your mom’s hurt, you do everything you can to help her,” Matthew said. “I try to make her laugh so she’ll think of something else.”

The Mathieus just want honesty.

“Whoever hit me, I just wish they would come forward. Whether you were drunk when you did it or whatever, I don’t care.” Laura said. “I don’t know how you could not know you hit somebody and didn’t even stop to make sure that they were OK. I think that’s what bothers me the most. I could be dead, and they don’t care.”

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