Woman recalls finding hit-and-run victim roadside - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Woman helps save hit-and-run victim's life

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Melissa Santamaria Melissa Santamaria

A hit-and-run victim who was riding his bicycle when he was struck by a car Sunday night in Effingham County remains in serious condition.

Mitchell Johnson, 47, of Guyton, was biking on Hodgeville Road, not far from his home, when he was struck from behind.He is still alive, and authorities say a woman driving by may have saved his life.

Melissa Santamaria lives just half a mile from the victim along Hodgeville Road where both of them lived. She didn't know the victim, but Santamaria, thanks to some bicycle knowledge from her husband, did know to turn around after spotting a flashing light in a ditch.

"I saw a flashing light in a ditch and I kept driving but the more I thought about it, the ditch shouldn't be having a flashing light. That's when I turned around to see, and fortunately I did," Santamaria told WTOC.

She found a mangled bicycle and a body off near the wooded area, Johnson's body knocked from his bicycle on the road into a ditch near a wooded area.

"There was a man there and his bicycle was tore up. I was afraid he had passed away and what in the world happened, so I tried to talk to him. I knew not to move him and he was breathing but he was not conscious," she said. 

Santamaria said the road was dark and she was the only car on the road for several minutes until another man pulled over. She had already called 911 and found Johnson's hat in one area and cell phone in another.

A day later, Johnson is alive, but investigators have no clues to follow up on as the hit-and-run did not leave an pieces of the car behind. There were no witnesses, so far.

They do credit Santamaria with possibly saving Johnson's life.

"Had she not found him, he was laying there helpless left to die. Thankfully she actually saw something that didn't look right and she checked on it," David Ehsanipoor, spokesman for the Effingham County Sheriff's Office, told WTOC.

"I would say thanks to the blinking light in the ditch. Thanks to his reflector. I'm hoping any body would have stopped, you know?  Maybe the person who hit him. That would have been nice," Santamaria said.

Deputies say the man has regained consciousness and is talking to investigators. Georgia State Patrol has taken over the investigation. Effingham County Sheriff's Office is asking anyone who may have seen the wreck or a car in that area at the time to call them.

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