East County grandmother Marjie Barnes-Grant recovering from injuries in bike crash

Driver admitted to falling asleep at wheel

SPRING VALLEY, Calif. - An East County grandmother hit while riding her bicycle in Spring Valley is still recovering in the hospital more than a month after the crash.

Marjie Barnes-Grant tries not to think about the person who hit her.

"I don't let myself go there because I have to get better," she said in an interview with 10News at Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas.

She suffered a head injury and fractured her pelvis, arm and leg. Barnes-Grant has already undergone multiple surgeries.

"I have a metal pelvis and metal across my backbone," Barnes-Grant said. "I have a metal leg."

According to a California Highway patrol report, the incident happened Dec. 19 on a rainy afternoon. The CHP report says a Toyota FJ Cruiser was heading eastbound on Campo Road in Spring Valley when the driver said he fell asleep as he passed Hollyhock Lane. He then went off the roadway, hit Barnes-Grant on her bike, struck a utility pole and finally a tree.

Although Barnes-Grant survived, thinking about another crash brought her to tears.

"Forty years ago, I had a brother who was killed by a drunk driver a week before he graduated from high school, and when you don't get to say goodbye, it's hard," Barnes-Grant said, as tears fell down her cheeks.

The driver, James Nungary, did not comment on the crash. 10News visited his home and called him, but he hung up before giving an explanation on what happened in December.

Nungary was found at fault, and he was cited for not having insurance and driving on a suspended license. He admitted to drinking earlier in the day, but passed field sobriety tests. According to the CHP report, he left the scene but returned after someone told him he hit a person.

"She was the epitome of a responsible cyclist," said Chris Taylor, a board member with BikeSD.

The local advocacy group is frustrated that Nungary is not facing harsher punishment.

"The idea that there's going to be some justice for Marjie other than regaining her health -- it's not likely to play out," Taylor said.

A CHP representative said the crash was deemed an accident and that it was a case of "a driver losing control in the rain."

"If there was intent, it would be assault with a deadly weapon; that's a felony," said CHP spokesman Kevin Pearlstein. "There was no intent."

Pearlstein added that the driver stated he left the scene to get a tow truck. He returned when he was advised he hit someone. The driver's actions does not meet the threshold for hit-and-run, according to Pearlstein.

Pearlstein added that Nungary's blood-alcohol level was well under the legal limit, although he would not say what it was.

Barnes-Grant just feels lucky to be alive.

"You can wipe out a life that quick on a bike," Barnes-Grant said.

BikeSD is holding a fundraiser to help Barnes-Grant purchase items she will need for her recovery.

A fundraiser is being held for Barnes-Grant held Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. at MJ's Cyclery (3841 Park Boulevard, San Diego, 92013).

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