Blind World Magazine

Hit-and-run driver hits blind woman and kills her guide dog.

October 07, 2005.
By The Associated Press.

A blind woman was injured and her guide dog killed as they waited for a bus after a drunken driver drove over a curb and hit them, then left the scene, police said.

Danielle Iredale, 22, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was in fair condition Thursday at UNC Hospitals after being hit just before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Her dog was found dead at the scene.

Stephen Coffee, 27, of Carrboro was being held under $25,000 bond, charged with felony harming an animal, felony hit and run, reckless driving, driving while a license is revoked, driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest and injury to property.

A breath test, police said, showed Coffee's blood alcohol level at 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit for drinking and driving.

UNC student Marija Kurtovic, who said she and Iredale frequently ride the bus together, was standing beside Iredale when the car came over the curb. She was able to jump out of the way, but Iredale, who was wearing head phones, had no way to know a car was headed toward her, she said.

"He did not even turn the wheel until he hit her," Kurtovic said of the driver. "You have no idea how light the hit looked. (But) she was like a doll, thrown up into the air. When he hit her, then he drove back onto the road."

Police said they found a car that matched descriptions given by witnesses parked in front of an apartment nearby. The car was warm to the touch, as if it had been recently driven, and dog fur was found on the front left side, they said.

A search of court records showed that in 1996, Coffee was charged in Brunswick County with DWI, possession of alcohol by a minor and reckless driving. In 1998, he was charged with DWI again in the same county and his license was revoked.

Hodges Privette, who drives a Chapel Hill Transit bus, said many of the bus drivers knew Iredale because she and her dog used the bus system to get around town.

"She always had the dog with her, and he laid up under her seat and didn't move," Privette said. "That dog could pull her up out of the seat, take her right out of that bus and take her right where she needed to go."

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