Accident victim urges
By Ray Hafner
Daily Cougar Staff
For Angela Panzica, the night of Jan. 27
is a red blur.
There was the red Nissan Sentra that ran
the red light and smashed into her red wheelchair as she attempted to cross
Cullen Boulevard heading toward her apartment at Cougar Place.
Yvonne Feece/The Daily Cougar
Social work graduate student
Angie Panzica, left, and Patrice Pike, a friend, are pictured during better
times before Panzica's wheelchair was struck by a car at Entrance 11 on
Cullen Boulevard near Cougar Place.
Then there were the red flashes from the
ambulance that transported her to Memorial Hermann Hospital with a fractured
pelvis and a leg broken in two
"If I had a quarter for every time I've
seen (the light) run, I could pay for graduate school," Panzica said three
weeks later, after a 10-day stay in the hospital.
Panzica, a sociology graduate student who
suffers from cerebral palsy, was crossing the intersection as she did several
times a day, and had made it
halfway before she was struck. Doctors
said that were it not for the wheelchair, the car, which was traveling
at approximately 30 miles per hour, would easily
have killed her.
UH Police Lt. Roger Byars summed up the
accident as "inattentiveness to driving."
Siwei Liu, the driver of the car, was tested
for alcohol and drugs but came up negative. He was not ticketed because
one of the lamps in the crossing may
have malfunctioned. Liu was traveling
south on Cullen with his wife when he "suddenly found" the wheelchair in
his path, he said.
By that point it was too late.
Because the accident occurred on a city
street, the University is not responsible for any malfunctions. That also
complicates the ability to make changes on
"Long before this accident occurred we'd
been pursuing some change, specifically at that location," said William
McKinney, a project manager for Facilities
Planning and Construction who specializes
in accessibility for the disabled.
He was referring to smoothing out the road
in the crosswalk, which Panzica called "bumpy."
But a smoother road would not have helped
Panzica that night, and she hopes to raise awareness of the dangers of
reckless driving, especially at that
location, Entrance 11 on Cullen Boulevard.
"I'm not the only one," she said, referring
to the more than a dozen handicapped students who reside at Cougar Place.
"I see people whip out of those intersections
without giving us a second thought," she said. "It needs to be safer for
Panzica is not sure what steps should be
taken, but said she believes that lower speed limits or an overpass would
make the area less dangerous.
"We will work with the city (on) any changes
they deem necessary," director of Residential Life and Housing Andy Blank
But Lt. Byars says he believes the community
is "doing a good job in (its) general manner of driving." UH averages one
or two of these types of accidents
each semester. Byars, who has been with
UHPD for nine years, said he believes the record is good considering the
volume of vehicular and pedestrian
traffic, but acknowledges that more can
He also said he believes traffic enforcement
has been "enhanced" and said that police have been "stepping up our visual
presence in some of these areas."
This is small consolation to Panzica, who
had to drop out of classes this semester and faces four to six months of
rehabilitation and at least one more
surgery. She said she hopes people will
learn from her experience and be more cautious.
The accident has cost her at least a year
in the graduation process and her independence, she said, but has not dampened
"I'm very resilient," she said. "And the
bones will heal and I will overcome this."