A week after finishing a four-month deployment in Afghanistan, Sgt. James Couch of Frederickson felt like going on a run.
About 5 p.m. Tuesday, the 29-year-old Army Ranger tucked in his 10-month-old twin sons, threw on his jogging clothes and told his wife, Ashley, that he would be back in a little while.
Fifteen minutes later, Ashley Couch received a phone call. Her husband had been struck from behind by a hit-and-run driver in the 15600 block of 38th Avenue East, less than a mile from their house. She raced to the scene to find him lying at the side of the road, surrounded by Central Pierce firefighters.
She immediately worried about brain damage. “He was completely covered in blood,” Ashley Couch, 26, said Thursday.
James Couch, who had been running in the gravel along the roadside when the car hit him, was taken to Madigan Army Medical Center with cuts to his head, abrasions on his limbs, a broken left leg and torn ligaments in both knees.
Mike Ruger, a clinical risk manager at Auburn Regional Medical Center with a background in nursing, was the first person to stop and help. Ruger stayed by James Couch’s side and called the victim’s wife.
“There was road rash all over him … he was moaning very loudly,” Ruger said. “He didn’t know what had happened to him.”
Another witness, who dialed 911, told Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies that he saw a 1990s red Chevrolet pickup speeding away, Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. The truck had a short cab and a tool rack and a ladder on the back, said the witness, who described the driver as a white male wearing a white T-shirt.
Ashley Couch said her husband underwent surgery Tuesday night. Doctors fixed a large puncture wound on his left calf and a laceration on his left thigh. James Couch faces at least one more surgery to repair the torn knee ligaments.
“Thankfully, he didn’t have any internal injuries,” Ashley Couch said. She took their infant sons, Ethan and Cade, to see him in the hospital Thursday, and “it lifted his spirits a lot.”
While James Couch was deployed in Afghanistan, he missed the boys’ first Christmas, said Darlene Couch, his mother.
James and Ashley Couch met in May 2006 while on a camping trip in Vantage; they went rock climbing together and hit it off. They married May 12, 2007, exactly a year after the day they met. Soon after, he left for his second overseas tour, this time in Iraq.
“For a soldier to give up everything, to leave his wife and children for four months, and then to be run down and left at the side of the road … you feel pretty sad about society right now,” Ashley Couch said.
Joyce Chen: 253-597-8426
Staff writer Mike Archbold contributed to this report.