Freshman critical after being hit by DUI suspect
A 15-year-old girl on her way to a bus stop to begin her first day as a freshman suffered head injuries after being struck by a suspected drunken driver Tuesday morning.
Marissa Bassett was flown to Washoe Medical Center by a CareFlight helicopter about 30 minutes after the 6:55 a.m. accident on the corner of 15th Street and Eloise Avenue. She underwent a CAT scan and was said to be in critical and unstable condition last night.
The driver of the car, 21-year-old Jesse Christopher Whitworth, was taken into custody on a felony drunken driving charge. He was being held on $20,000 bail at El Dorado County Jail.
Police said Whitworth, who was uninjured, could be charged with felony manslaughter if Bassett dies.
Both charges carry a maximum of six years in prison.
Benjamin Levister and Damian Dolan, two passengers in the car, also survived the crash, but will likely not be charged with any crime.
Witnesses said the 2004 Subaru Impreza that Whitworth was driving made a quick left from Venice Drive onto 15th Street. It then sped down the asphalt, authorities said.
Marissa was in the crosswalk at 15th Street. In an attempt to avoid the girl, Whitworth swerved right, struck Marissa, hit a tree, slammed into a wood fence and flipped over, authorities said. The girl was thrown 36-feet. The velocity of the crash knocked her black skater shoes off. They landed across the street from each other.
Trent Binger, renting the corner house with his bicycle team, ran out and put a sleeping bag over the teenager, who was unconscious and bleeding from the nose and mouth.
Paramedics arrived less than four minutes later.
J.C. Wolf lives three houses from the corner. She feared her sophomore son was involved in the accident, since he also uses the Eloise bus stop.
Wolf said she is fed up with the constant speeding along 15th Street. She wants speed bumps installed.
“People go through there like it’s a racetrack,” she said.
At South Tahoe High School, the excitement of the first day was marred by the bad news. Counseling was available for students.
Freshman Nicole Tapia said her friend was reserved.
“She’s one of those people who are shy and doesn’t talk much,” Nicole said. “She wouldn’t hurt anybody.”
Assistant Principal Marilyn Pawling was a sixth- and seventh-grade counselor for Bassett. Pawling, who moved to the high school last year, was excited to see the incoming freshmen class.
“I just expected them to be here and be a group again because that was one of the nicest classes by far,” Pawling said.
Officer Chuck Owens said Tuesday he was treating the scene as a manslaughter investigation.
–E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org