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Police still seek hit-run driver

Lauren Heishman

Laura Heishman's wrecked vehicle. Courtesy photo

Injured victim left with questions after recent crash

By Joe Beck - jbeck@nvdaily.com

Lauren Heishman never saw the driver of a semi-trailer truck that sent her 2009 Honda Civic hurtling over a guardrail and down an embankment on Interstate 81 two weeks ago.

But her boyfriend did.

The truck driver, who had stopped to ask her boyfriend if she was all right, left the scene soon afterward, and state police say they are still looking for him. Heishman would also like to know who he is.

"I don't know how someone could just leave like that," Heishman said.

Heishman, 21, said the accident left her with three broken pelvic bones that required her to spend six nights at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. She returned last week to her parents' home in Woodstock where she undergoes physical therapy with a nurse who visits the house. Heishman said she wouldn't be able to put weight on her left leg for another six to eight weeks. In the meantime, she is using a walker to get around.

"It was pretty scary," Heishman said of the accident. "I remember closing my eyes, and I don't remember hitting the guardrail, and then the pain just started, and I started screaming."

State police said the accident happened around 8:15 p.m. Sept. 21 at mile marker 274. Heishman said she was on her way to the Edinburg Old Time Festival to watch her father play in a basketball game. Her boyfriend was driving just ahead of her in a pickup truck.

She said she saw the semi-trailer truck as she drove down the entrance ramp behind her boyfriend.

At first, everything seemed fine. The semi pulled into the left lane to let her 2009 Honda Civic merge into northbound traffic from the Mt. Jackson ramp, she said.

But then the truck tried to change back to the right lane, she said. In doing so, it came in behind her and hit the back left side of her car. She said the impact spun her car into the left lane and then back into the right lane before she went through a guardrail and 150 feet down an embankment.

Her boyfriend briefly encountered the truck driver as he rushed to help her, she said.

"He apparently stopped and asked my boyfriend if I was OK, she said of the driver. "I never saw him or anything."

The driver stepped out of his truck and inquired about her well being, but had left with his truck by the time her boyfriend returned from the wrecked car, Heishman said.

Heishman is a senior majoring in education at Bridgewater College. She said she hasn't been in class since the accident, but hopes to be back next week.

Her father, Stephen Heishman, said few, if any, people were likely to have seen her wrecked car at the bottom of the embankment as they passed by the accident scene. He said he hopes as more people hear his daughter's story, someone will remember seeing the semi and its driver on the night of Sept. 21.

"We hope it will jostle somebody's memory of seeing the tractor trailer sitting there, even though it was only there for a few minutes," he said.


These semis are scarey. They come within a couple of feet behind and I know if I have to stop or slow quickly I will die. Then there are the ones that are polite and good drivers. It is scary.

Truckers, like the rest of society, come in good and bad. Most likely the thought of losing his CDL and his livelihood made the driver responsible for this accident run as fast as he could. Maybe his logbook wasn't up to date. Maybe he was driving on a suspended license. The maybe's could go on and on.
Newsflash! The lives of this young woman and her boyfriend are far more important than his selfish concerns. If the trucking company this driver works for could be identified it's possible to narrow down which driver was in the area at the time of the accident.
On the other hand, traffic coming onto an interstate is supposed to yield to existing traffic. Doing so would have prevented this accident totally.
Thank God Miss Heishman should be OK in time.

Aren"t there cameras on 81 at certain places? Maybe this would help narrow down suspects and find this person. I am sure the state police will investigate and I pray they find this driver. Thank God this lady will be alright.

Lauren - praying you heal quickly! I'm so glad you came out of that alive. I hope they are able to find who did it. I was also hit by a Semi truck at mile marker 299 one evening about 3 years ago and sent my Camry spinning in 360's and I hit both guard rails. I was miraculously okay but the truck driver never stopped at all! I see the semi's drive in and out of lanes a lot. I know there are really good drivers out there, too but there are sure a lot of dangerous ones! Thank you VDOT for putting guard rails - you've probably saved many lives! Get well Lauren, I hope you can get back to school soon.

Are you implying it was her fault? Did you not read that the driver got over to let her on the interstate and that once she did he cut back into the lane too soon and clipped her. I do not think your reference to incoming traffic yielding to interstate traffic holds any water in this case. She was a victim of improper driving. That is why the article includes the words "hit-&-run", otherwise, I'm sure the police would not be looking for this person. Frankly, I'm appalled and feel that part of your comment was unnecessary!

Lauren - I think of you daily and wish you a speedy recovery! I am so glad your injuries are ones that will heal in time :) Be strong and hopefully this person will be found and justice carried out.

Having been a tractor trailer operator I would guess that, after moving to the left lane, he looked into his mirror and not seeing her because she was in his blind spot, started
moving back to the right thereby hitting her. I say this due to the location of contact on the left rear of her car. That would place her slightly ahead of his right door & beyond his right side mirrors. A small car is almost impossible to see in that area. I cannot excuse the fact that he did not remain at the scene of the accident nor do I blame her. I would say that, in hind sight, she should have pulled into the left lane behind him thereby allowing him to move back into the right lane, then passing him. When he didn't see her that is probably what he thought occurred.

I am glad she was not more seriously injured and pray she recovers well and quickly.

Interstate 81 is like a redneck version of MaroKart Racing and I never drive on it all. Instead, I just meander through Winchester to do my errands. I hope the State Police are taking advantage of all of the traffic cameras along 81 in their investigation, they just might get lucky.

A question to anyone who had driven a semi: When you arrive back at your "home base" is there an inspection of the trucks?


You call it implying. Go ahead, be appalled. Be whatever you feel like fits the circumstances if that makes you feel better. You're right, hit and run is how this accident is described and I don't argue that. Yes, Miss Heishman is the victim of improper driving. All of that doesn't change the fact that traffic on the interstate does not have to yeild to oncoming traffic. It's the other way around. Yes, the truck driver did move over. Does anyone know if he had moved over only to realize there was a vehicle to his left? He's still guilty of hit and run. Still, the accident COULD have been avoided had Miss Heishman waited until she knew she was not crowding existing traffic which put her in peril. Would you believe that the truck driver could be guilty of hit and run and still not be at fault for the accident? As a former safety officer, I know it for a fact.

It is funny that you bring that point up when the accident occurred a mile and a half away from the entrance ramp on the interstate. There was only three cars around at the time of the accident: Ms. Heishmans car, Her boyfriends truck, and the tractor and trailer. You should probably know more information about the accident before you voice your opinion. He obviously got over in the left lane to let her on when there was no cars in the left lane and obviously he did not give her enough room when he came and clipped her from behind a mile and a half down the road.

She got on the interestate at the 273 mm, accident happened at 274.6, no question and yielding or not yielding. Wishing her a speedy recovery, and praying each day gets a little better.

I'm sorry! I didn't realize someone other than her boyfriend saw the whole thing. If that's the case, how about providing some information about the tractor trailer.

Her car was struck in the left rear which means he was slightly behind her. He couldn't have lost her in his blind spot. The long nose on a conventional cab tractor would have obstructed his view if he was following too closely.
Earlier comments were based on limited information in the first article. The article that now appears is a revision.
My apologies for assuming this accident occurred as Miss Heishman was merging on to I-81 as I gathered from the original article.

Headhunter makes a good point. It must be aggravating to truckers - vehicles making passes on the right rather than allowing them [time 'n space] to move over into the right [slower] lane so that one can make a safer pass around them on the left. I know it's aggravating to me and I have much better vis when either in my 'lil car or aboard my m/c.

Just a general note here and not saying the driver here contributed to her accident.

I was nearly sideswiped last week by a lady in a large SUV last week because she would not yield and came over into my lane while I had another vehicle in the right lane passing me. People need to be watching the road and not be on cell phones or just pulling out thinking people will move over. It is not the responsibility of the traffic to let you in, you MUST YIELD

I try to tell my children when entering I81 do not linger on the right side of a tractor trailer, no matter what. If you are coming down the on ramp yield...too many people do not yield now days but assume you are to move over to let them out.

If a tractor trailer is passing you, do not linger int he dead zone. Slow down, let them around and flash them into the right lane and then past them.

Being one vehicle in front of a tractor trailer is not worth my life or my children. Respect the size of the vehicle and stay the heck off the cell phones people.

To Old Clunker... She was not "lingering" as you put it, and NOT on the cell phone, as her phone was in the drivers door (that was cut off of the car) and found in pieces.

Again, the tractor and trailer saw her get on the interstate which is why he got in the left lane, she could not get around him as he was riding right beside of her for over a mile. She is not going to slow down once she gets on the interstate just to let a truck driver over that could cause even more problems later on. It is not her responsibility to flash the truck driver over either. If he would have been paying attention the whole thing would have been avoided. The fact that he left the seen shows he was too scared to face the consequences that he deserves.

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