Lee Smith has commuted to work by bike for about 20 years. In fact, he doesn’t own a car.
The 57-year-old Johnson Point resident estimates he traveled about 40 miles each day to the Olympia Regional Airport, where he works for the Department of National Resources.
Until last month, he always felt safe. He wore a reflective vest and used six lights: two on the back of his bike, three on the front and one on his helmet. He said safety was always his top priority — he rode on the shoulder or in bike lanes whenever possible.
Despite the precautions, Smith was the victim of a hit and run on Feb. 17. About 6:30 p.m., the driver of a red car swerved off of Johnson Point Road, hit Smith and left him on the side of the road.
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“All I remember is hearing the sound of crumpling metal, and I was out,” Smith said.
The force of the collision ripped Smith out of his shoes, which were attached to his bike pedals. The straps of his helmet broke, and his phone, watch and keys flew into the woods. The car left behind several parts.
Those car parts could be the key to catching the driver, said Lt. Cliff Ziesemer, of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. The driver left behind a right side mirror, which has been identified as part of a red 2014 or 2015 Kia Optima.
Ziesemer said a detective searched the state Department of Licensing database, and is tracking down all locally owned cars matching the description — especially in the Johnson Point area.
“What we’re doing is kind of time intensive, but that’s what we need to do to find the suspect,” Ziesemer said.
Smith woke up about 20 minutes after the collision to a stranger standing over him. He said the man covered him in a blanket and waited for firefighters to arrive.
Lee Smith’s wife, Carol Smith, credits the good Samaritan with saving her husband’s life.
“Here’s this person who has a lot going on their own life, he has a baby in the car, and he stops,” she said. “He basically saved my husband’s life by doing that.”
Despite blacking out at the scene, Lee Smith didn’t suffer any brain injuries. The collision did, however, result in 12 broken bones in his leg, back, ribs, neck and nose. Once swelling goes down in his leg, he’ll need a series of surgeries to repair damage to his knee.
He spent five days in the hospital before going home to recover in his recliner.
“I spend all day here,” Lee Smith said. “I eat here, I sleep here.”
And while the physical injuries are painful, Smith said he’s most disturbed by the fact that someone hit him and fled the scene.
“They just left me to die,” Smith said. “They had to know they hit me. They hit me so hard they left car parts at the scene. So why didn’t they stop?”