Student struck while cycling not expected to recover brain function

Nathan Krasnopoler, the 20-year-old Johns Hopkins University student who was struck by a motorist while bicycling on University Parkway in February, is not expected to recover brain function and doctors have "no hope for a meaningful recovery," according to his family.

In a statement released Tuesday, Krasnopoler's family said the brain damage the student received in a Feb. 26 collision appears to be permanent.

"Nathan remains unresponsive due to his brain injury resulting from the lack of oxygen reaching his brain, which was caused by his collapsed lungs and the delayed response due to his entrapment underneath the vehicle," the statement said. It described his condition as "stable" and did not say death was imminent, but it left little hope that he would recover conscious brain activity.

The family statement followed an email by Nicholas Jones, dean of the school of engineering, to students, faculty and others at Hopkins saying Krasnopoler's family had told the Hopkins administration that "he is not expected to recover any cognitive function."

Krasnopoler, whose family lives in Ellicott City, was hit by a car driven by an 83-year-old woman who was making a right turn into a driveway. He had been in a coma since then.

On March 22, the Krasnopoler family sued the driver, Jeanette Marie Walke, charging that she violated multiple traffic laws.

In its statement Tuesday, the family contended that Krasnopoler was lawfully riding in a bike lane at the time of the collision. It said that after the car drove over him, "Nathan's lungs collapsed and he stopped breathing while trapped under the vehicle for an undetermined amount of time" before he was extricated by emergency workers.

The family said Krasnopoler suffered third- and fourth-degree burns on his face and torso from contact with the hot car engine, as well as bone fractures, cuts and bruises. According to the statement, his heart stopped in the ambulance, but medical technicians were able to revive him.

Since then, Krasnopoler has remained in the Johns Hopkins Hospital intensive care unit. The family said his bodily functions have improved there and that "he has had and will continue to undergo skin surgeries to treat the severe burns."

Krasnopoler's case has aroused anger among the region's bicycle advocates, who saw the Baltimore Police Department's original response as inadequate.

A police spokesman said at first that Walke would not be charged, but the department later backed off that position and said a decision would be made in consultation with the city state's attorney's office.

On Tuesday, chief spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said investigators had completed their review and forwarded their findings to the state's attorney's office. He would not comment on what recommendations were made.

Bicyclists' groups, energized by a series of recent fatal crashes involving motor vehicles and bikes, plan a ride from Baltimore to Annapolis on Wednesday in support of a bill that would create a new offense of manslaughter by criminal negligence — more serious than a traffic charge but with a lesser penalty than felony vehicular manslaughter. Among the organizers is Tami Bensky, widow of Larry Bensky, who was killed a year ago while bicycling on Butler Road in Baltimore County.

The bill has passed the House and is up for a hearing in a Senate committee whose chairman has expressed misgivings about the legislation.

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