CRESTVIEW — A resident was struck by a vehicle Oct. 20 on his way home on Stillwell Boulevard, injuring him and breaking his electric chair.
David Newcomb, a manager at Pizza Hut, lives on a street off Stillwell. On his way home from work after 9 p.m. that Friday, a car hit the back of Newcomb’s wheelchair and fled the scene.
The vehicle that struck Newcomb from behind may be a late 1990s or early 2000s model of a white four-door sedan. It may be missing a front passenger's side headlight, according to the Florida Highway Patrol media release.
“I was coming down the road, I had my lights on… and I heard a horn honking, and I woke up lying in a ditch,” Newcomb said. “When I woke up, there were already police around me.”
From the accident, Newcomb was transported to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center with numerous bruises, lacerations in his back, and bleeding in his brain. He is recovering at his Crestview home.
Newcomb, 32, has used a wheelchair since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 18 years old. He said his wheelchair cost $60,000 and is now unusable; a back wheel is missing and the lift system is broken.
“He waited several years to get that electric wheelchair and it was amazing,” Angela Jones, an acquaintance of Newcomb’s, said. “He could lift himself to standing positions.”
According to Newcomb, the wheelchair company said they can’t replace the chair unless the police catch the person who hit it.
Newcomb now uses a regular, non-motorized wheelchair, which he said is difficult because his electric chair helped him get around his home, where he lives alone. He also said he’s worried about how it will affect him when he returns to work.
“This is the only town I’ve ever lived in that busy roads don’t have sidewalks,” Newcomb said. “People are so impatient. Sometimes they will drive into oncoming traffic to get around me.”
Other residents agree with Newcomb’s feeling toward the lack of sidewalks on Stillwell.
“I wish they would put sidewalks down Stillwell,” Beth Reynolds said. “It really is a dangerous road. I work at Azteca [Mexican Restaurant] so I see David in passing on my way to work often.”
According to Lt. Eddie Elmore, public affairs officer with the Florida Highway Patrol, there have been 15 crashes involving pedestrians on Stillwell Boulevard within the past year.
Stillwell is within the jurisdiction of Okaloosa County, and county officials said it will be some time before sidewalks are installed on the road.
“Okaloosa County has received a grant from [the Florida Department of Transportation] for the design of the sidewalks along a portion of Stillwell in the current fiscal year,” Public Works Director Jason Autrey said.
“Funding for construction has not been identified until [fiscal year 2023].”