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Driver cleared in crash that injured teen pedestrian

Mar. 24—A driver will not be prosecuted for a crash that severely injured a teenager, with the Jackson Count District Attorney's office calling it a "terrible accident."

Andrew Van Hee, 34, was cleared Tuesday of any criminal charges for his role in a crash on Gibbon Road in Central Point that left 16-year-old Hailee Patnesky with "life-altering" injuries.

At about 5:35 p.m. Jan. 9, Van Hee was driving his Chevrolet Impala sedan westbound on Gibbon Road near the Azalea Drive intersection when he struck Patnesky between an estimated 40 and 45 mph, according to a release issued Tuesday afternoon by chief Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Markiewicz, who investigated the case. Gibbon Road has a posted speed limit of 40 mph.

Patnesky was rushed to Rogue Regional Medical Center with severe skull and brain injuries, and remains hospitalized in an intermediate care unit awaiting transfer to a Portland hospital that specializes in traumatic brain injury, according to a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaignthat as of Tuesday had raised $31,030 toward a $50,000 goal.

Investigators with the Serious Traffic Accident Reconstruction team — consisting of Jackson County Sheriff's Office and Medford police personnel — determined that Patnesky was walking "at least 2.04 feet in the westbound lane of travel," while Patnesky's sister and a friend were following behind on a gravel shoulder.

The car's headlights were on at the time of the crash, which occurred nearly 40 minutes after sunset, but the three girls were all "predominantly wearing dark clothing, and none of the clothing was reflective," according to Markiewicz.

A nearby home surveillance camera showed that the car never swerved out of the lane.

Van Hee told investigators at the scene that he saw the two girls on the side of the road, but he never saw Patnesky prior to the crash. He fully cooperated with the STAR team, according to the DA's office, consenting to inspections of his vehicle and cellphone and providing breath and urine samples, which showed no signs of alcohol or other controlled substances.

"The incident ... was a terrible accident that will forever affect Ms. Patnesky and her family," Markiewicz stated. "However, the review of the evidence and investigator conclusions in this case do not support criminal culpability on Mr. Van Hee."

Despite finding no evidence of criminal culpability or "unreasonable driving," Markiewicz stated that the decision not to prosecute the case "by no means considers whether there are civil legal remedies."

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.