Sitter recovering from hit-skip

Broken stroller reminds victim suspect is still at large

6/18/2013
BY LORENZO LIGATO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sandra Vollmar, left, and Swanton resident Alexa Albring hold Ms. Albring's daughter, Aubri Berfield, 6 months, at Mrs. Vollmar's home in South Toledo. Ms. Vollmar was babysitting Aubri last month when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver. She managed to save the infant from injury.
Sandra Vollmar, left, and Swanton resident Alexa Albring hold Ms. Albring's daughter, Aubri Berfield, 6 months, at Mrs. Vollmar's home in South Toledo. Ms. Vollmar was babysitting Aubri last month when she was struck by a hit-and-run driver. She managed to save the infant from injury.

The damaged frame of a stroller has been sitting in the backyard of Sandra Vollmar's home in South Toledo for more than a month.

For the 59-year-old woman, the stroller stands as a vestige of the afternoon of May 15, when she was backed over by a car while protecting a 4-month-old baby.

Five weeks after the accident, the driver who sped away after striking the woman has not been arrested. But Mrs. Vollmar and her family want justice, urging Toledo police to spare no effort to apprehend the suspect.

“I'm a strong person and I'll get through this,” Mrs. Vollmar said. “But I want the person who did this to me to go to jail. For me and for the baby.”

For Mrs. Vollmar, May 15 had started just like any other day. She had picked up a friend's baby to watch and, after driving to a doctor's appointment, she was pushing the stroller with the baby across a grassy area next to the clinic at 3454 Oak Alley Ct.

According to a police traffic report, a car backed up in the parking lot by the clinic and invaded the grassy area, hitting Mrs. Vollmar around 2:14 p.m. As the woman pushed away the stroller to protect the baby from the impact, she remained pinned under the car up to her waist, suffering severe injuries to her right leg, the report said.

“I just felt my leg go, but all I could think of was the baby,” Mrs. Vollmar recalled.

But the baby girl, Aubri Berfield, escaped injury when she fell on the grass as the stroller tipped over and folded up just a few feet from the car.

As Mrs. Vollmar started screaming for help, patients and employees of the clinic raced into the parking lot, but the motorist had already sped away. Mrs. Vollmar was transported to Toledo Hospital, where she remained for 25 days with her right tibia fractured, torn joints, and torn meniscus.

The damaged stroller at Sandra Vollmar's home serves as a reminder that the driver involved has not yet been caught.
The damaged stroller at Sandra Vollmar's home serves as a reminder that the driver involved has not yet been caught.

Her husband, Richard Vollmar, said police officers in the emergency room consoled the woman and promised to apprehend the driver.

“They said, 'Don't worry, we'll get him,’” Mr. Vollmar said. ”But the truth is, they're not really giving a hoot because it's not a murder. But it could have easily been.”

In spite of their initial optimism, Toledo police have failed to make an arrest in the hit-and-run accident: The driver, whom Mrs. Vollmar described as a white, middle-aged man behind the wheel of a dark blue car, seems to have completely vanished.

In a June 12 email, Lt. Jeff Sulewski who oversees the Toledo Police Department Traffic Section, said the investigation remains open, but he did not disclose any additional details.

“It's hard to find a suspect for hit-and-run incidents like this,” echoed Toledo police spokesman Sgt. Joe Heffernan.

Frustrated by the police's silence on the investigation, Mr. Vollmar and his attorney, Andrew Kasle, decided to pursue their own manhunt.

In hopes of finding the hit-and-run driver, the two have been walking around the neighborhood to question residents and employees of the clinic who might have witnessed the accident.

For Mrs. Vollmar, the road to full recovery will be a long one, though. For the next month, the woman, who was released from the hospital on June 9, will have to follow a strict pain medication regimen and use a walker to move about. Even the smallest tasks, such as answering the doorbell or taking a bath, have become arduous challenges, she said.

But every cloud has a silver lining. In her living room, now turned into am impromptu bedroom, Mrs. Vollmar receives frequent visits from the baby's mother, Alexa Albring, a 22-year-old manicurist from Swanton. Mrs. Vollmar, who was one of Ms. Albring's clients, started baby-sitting the child in April to help out the young mother.

Now, Ms. Albring is happy to reciprocate the favor and watch over the convalescing woman.

“Sandra did all she could to protect the baby,” Ms. Albring said. “She has become like a mother to me. This episode brought us even closer.”

Contact Lorenzo Ligato at:

lligato@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.