Ottawa

Mother of severely injured hit-and-run victim calls on driver to 'do the right thing'

Serene Summers, 13, was struck by the driver of a vehicle that left the scene on Feb. 13. Police say it remains an active investigation.

13-year-old Serene Summers was struck by a vehicle's driver on Feb. 13

Serene Summers, pictured at far left and far right, poses with her mom Anita Armstrong, middle. (Anita Armstrong)

Even after being struck by a driver in a hit and run, undergoing emergency brain surgery and coping with pain after coming out of a medically induced coma, 13-year-old Serene Summers still has her sweet sense of humour.

Her mother said when doctors at Ottawa children's hospital CHEO removed her ventilator, Serene struggled to regain her normal voice.

"She was crying, making fun of her voice. She was just saying 'I'm Batman,'" said Anita Armstrong, mimicking the superhero's throaty growl.

"She was sending creepy messages to her friends in her Batman voice like, 'I'm watching you.' She's such a good sport." 

Headed home after buying Valentines

On Feb. 13 at about 3:45 p.m., Serene and her friend Eva got off a bus on Meadowlands Drive East near Valmarie Avenue in Ottawa's Carleton Heights neighbourhood, said Eva's mother Colleen Salinas.

The girls, both Grade 7 students at a nearby school, were headed home after a trip to buy Valentine's Day cards for their classmates, Salinas said. 

Summers and her friend got off the bus here before the collision occurred. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

According the Ottawa Police Service, the driver of a vehicle heading west on Meadowlands Drive East struck Summers and left the scene, leaving her critically injured.

Eva — who has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder — was just a few feet from her friend and saw someone in the vehicle look back, Salinas said. 

"They left two little girls in the street alone," Salinas said.

"It's anybody's civic duty to find who did this and to bring … closure to our families. Serene deserves justice." 

WATCH | Family, friends search for vehicle of interest after hit-and-run:

‘Serene deserves justice’: Family, friends search for vehicle of interest after hit-and-run

7 months ago
Duration 1:19
Colleen Salinas, whose daughter witnessed the collision, says she’s been spreading awareness of the investigation, putting up posters with photos of the car police are looking for.

Police appealed immediately to the public for witnesses. On Feb. 24, they released photos of a Black Honda Civic they called a vehicle of interest. 

The investigation remains active but there are no further details to provide, a police spokesperson said on Tuesday.

"The fact that no one has come forward to accept responsibility for what happened, or report what they might have seen, is very concerning," said Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, whose ward is steps away from the site of the collision. 

"We are a community and we should be looking out for one another."

Salinas has been knocking on doors and putting up posters of the Honda Civic. 

"I wanted Serene's family to be able to focus on her," she said.

'Why didn't they help me?' 

After being brought out of her coma, Serene gradually regained consciousness but still experienced a lot of pain, her mother said. 

Early in her treatment — when she communicated by forming letters with her fingers — "she was on so many medications, like three pages' [worth]," Armstrong said.

Serene Summers was in a medically induced coma during her first week in the hospital. (Submitted by Anita Armstrong)

Later, when a neurosurgeon asked an intubated Serene what her name was, she wrote it down with her eyes closed, Armstrong said. 

"Holy mackerel, is she ever strong," she said of her daughter, who loves sports, riding her bike and talking to friends like Eva. 

Friend Eve Salinas talks over Facetime with a hospitalized Serene Summers. (Colleen Salinas)

Now Serene's days are packed with speech, occupational and physical therapy.

She took 600 steps on Saturday, is starting to look more and more like herself and is hopeful she can attend a Justin Bieber concert on March 27, although her doctors aren't sure, Armstrong said. 

"I'm just so angry sometimes when I think, yeah, she's made incredible progress in the last few weeks, but she wasn't like this before," she said.

WATCH | Serene's recovery so far:

Mother of hit-and-run victim describes long road to recovery

7 months ago
Duration 1:10
Anita Armstrong says her daughter is recovering after being severely injured in a hit-and-run on Feb. 13, and that her sense of humour is helping the family get through the ordeal.

Armstrong is calling on the driver of the vehicle that upended her family's life to come forward and take responsibility. 

"My little girl is asking every day, 'Why didn't they stop? Why didn't they help me?'

"Please do the right thing."

Anyone with information about the collision is asked to contact the Ottawa police's Collisions Investigation Unit at 613-236-1222 extension 2481 or send an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

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