Disabled woman recovering after a hit-and-run accident

SALEM – A Salem woman with cerebral palsy is recovering in a Boston hospital after being struck by a car while crossing the street.

Sheila Rourke, 46, of Heritage Drive suffered a badly broken leg and wrist in the Friday accident. She underwent surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where she was listed in fair condition yesterday.

Walking on a sidewalk along Highland Avenue around noon, Rourke was sideswiped by a car as she crossed at First Street, according to police. The car continued down Highland Avenue until being stopped by police.

An 84-year-old driver, Bertrand Raby of Horton Street, was cited for leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.

Raby told police he did not see the woman and did not know he hit her. He told police he was looking left on that one-way stretch of Highland Avenue, waiting for a break in traffic.

Raby, who was driving a 2003 Honda SUV, told police he was stopped on First Street when he pulled onto Highland Avenue. Police estimate that he was driving about 5 mph when he struck Rourke with the driver’s-side door.

Witnesses said the car hit the woman and “left the area with (the) pedestrian lying in the street injured,” according to a police report.

Police were told that the car stopped after going a short distance down Highland Avenue and that the driver got out, looked around the area, got back in the car and drove away.

Raby was stopped a few minutes later after police put out a description of the car.

Patrolman Lawrence Puleo, who investigated the accident, filed an immediate threat form against Raby, who will be summonsed to Salem District Court on the charge of leaving the scene.

“I would like him to take responsibility … and get off the road,” said Debbie Slafsky, the sister of the accident victim.

In the surgeries, Rourke had two plates placed on her wrist and a rod in her leg, according to Slafsky. She said Rourke already had a rod in the same leg as a result of an earlier accident.

Rourke, who has multiple disabilities, was on her way to work as a bagger at a Shaw’s supermarket on Highland Avenue, according to her sister. She was walking from her apartment along Highland Avenue to the market, which is on the same busy roadway.

Slafsky said her sister, who lives independently, is a fighter and courageous. As a child, Rourke went to Peabody public schools and took part in Special Olympics, according to Slafsky.

“I have no doubt she will keep on trucking, (but) she has a long way ahead of her,” Slafsky said.