Campus hit-and-run leads UPD to form safety committee

Posted on Oct 17 2018 - 5:50am by Meredith Sills

Bailee Gray, a freshman from Kerrville, Texas, was struck by a vehicle while crossing the intersection of Northgate Drive and Sorority Row during the weekend of the Ole Miss home game against Alabama.

The driver who hit Gray, Ole Miss freshman John Walsten, was arrested three days after the incident and has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident with injuries.

Ole Miss student John Walsten has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident with injuries in relation to a hit-and-run on campus.

Gray said she was walking on campus right beside the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house when she was struck, and that she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“I went to get a milkshake for me and one of my friends, and we had a jam out session in the
car until around 1 a.m.,” Gray said. “I said goodbye to her and started walking back to my dorm.”

Gray said the route she usually takes to her dorm has no light and no sidewalks, but this
particular night she was cautious of her surroundings and decided to take an alternate route.


“I was like, ‘Be smart here,’” she said. “I don’t want to walk up a hill like usual. I would rather
walk down a hill, and this way has a sidewalk and a lit path.”

Gray approached a crosswalk. She remembered a car stopping, so she proceeded to walk.

“I know that I started walking across the street, and I threw my arm up to block my face
because his lights were like even with my eyebrow,” she said. “I remember turning and
throwing my arm up, and then I kind of remember screaming on the ground.”


She would later learn that the impact had left her with a fractured pelvis, four compression
fractures in her back, a fractured skull and a brain bleed. Gray was on life support until the Sunday after the incident occurred.

Although she was conscious shortly after she was hit, Gray said she does not remember anything until waking up on Sunday.

“I didn’t know what time it was. I thought I was sitting on the stairs by Kappa the
whole time after it happened watching someone else get loaded up in the ambulance, but I
was obviously seizing in the middle of the street,” Gray said. “I had the strangest out of body experience.”


A bystander visiting from Alabama that saw the incident happen called an ambulance and
held Gray in her arms until paramedics arrived, saving her life.

Gray said another witness told her the driver got out of his car, saw her on the ground and then drove away.

“I got in the ambulance and called my grandparents after I stopped seizing and was just like
‘Hey, I just got hit by a drunk driver, but I’ll be okay,’” she said. “I had a perfectly normal voice,
but I guess it was just the shock.”


Gray said when she arrived at Baptist Memorial-North Mississippi hospital, doctors told her they did not handle neurological injuries as serious as the one she had sustained, so she was flown to the Memphis hospital in the Life Flight Helicopter.


“I got to the hospital here in Oxford, and they saw how much blood was coming out of my
ears, so they got me a on a helicopter to Memphis,” she said. “They knew I was going to make it, but they didn’t know if I was going to have any severe brain damage or how long it was going to be ‘til I could walk again.”


Gray proved to the doctors she could walk and was in the hospital for a little over a week.


“I was supposed to be flat on my back for two to six months, but I told the doctors I had plans,”
she said.

Two weeks after the accident, Gray went through formal Panhellenic recruitment and joined Alpha Delta Pi Sorority.


“Honestly, everything happens for a reason,” Gray said. “I understand that sometimes people
make mistakes, and I would have forgiven him if he had gotten out and helped me, but he just
left me there to die.”


Gray said her community of support is one of the only things keeping her in Mississippi after the
incident.


“My friends keep me going. They come over all the time, and we eat lots of good
food, watch videos and laugh until it hurts,” she said. “That’s all I do now. I wake up, go to class, do my work and the rest of my time is spent with my two friends, Bailey and Lauren.”


Gray’s parents have been in Oxford caring for her since the incident.


“I don’t walk to class; my parents take me,” she said. “They like to stalk me, too, so if you see
an Audi driving by it’s for sure my parents.”


University Police Department Chief Ray Hawkins said Gray’s injuries were more severe than others he has seen following on-campus accidents.


“I think accidents happen,” Hawkins said. “There are a lot of variables that come into play, so it’s hard to say that any one variable caused or didn’t cause this accident.”


UPD is in the process of teaming up with Associated Student Body President  Elam Miller, to start a campus safety committee next semester.


“Our perceptions may be a little different than students. They may see something we don’t see, or they may see things in a different way,” Hawkins said. “The whole idea is to bring students to the table with UPD and talk about some of the safety concerns that they have so those things are on our radar and we can address them.”


Mike Harris, director of parking and transportation, said the department has been adding “Pedestrian Crossing” signs in the middle of roads and crosswalks as a visual message for vehicles to slow down.


“I feel that Ole Miss is safe, but I also believe there are things that can be done to enhance that safety, and those things are being done,” Harris said.