Reward offered as family, police plead for tips in hit-and-run that seriously injured Columbia nurse

09/22/2012 12:00 AM

11/02/2012 12:12 AM

Lindsay Bires brought youthful energy and a sense of adventure to her new job as a nurse in the cardiac care unit at Columbia’s Palmetto Health Heart Hospital.

Older, more experienced nurses found themselves scrambling to keep up with the 24-year-old former USC student from Massachusetts.

Now, those fellow nurses are finding themselves in the hospital’s intensive care unit as they await news of Bires’s struggle to overcome injuries she received in a hit-and-run accident.

“She was called to be a nurse,” said Brooke Patterson, a cardiac nurse who helped train Bires.

Bires was outside the hospital, on break from her overnight shift, at 2:25 a.m. Sunday when a small, white car came barreling down Medical Park Drive on the northwest side of the hospital’s main campus. Other hospital employees on break were forced to jump out of its way as it came in their direction, Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said. The car was driving erratically, and police believe it drove onto the sidewalk.

“They thought it hit something,” Scott said of the other employees. “They walked up and saw it was Lindsay.”

On Friday, Scott joined Bires’s family and co-workers to plead for information that could lead police to find the driver, who didn’t stop. Bires’s family offered a $5,000 reward for tips.

“Please do the right thing for my sister,” said Lauren MacKinnon, who traveled from Haverhill, Mass., to be with Bires.

Police do not know the make or model of the car. They also don’t know if any passengers were inside or where the car was headed.

Police have canvassed the area in hopes of finding surveillance video that may have captured the car somewhere in the area. They have asked nearby businesses to review footage for possible images.

The car in question most likely would have damage to its passenger front and side, Scott said.

Earlier this week, Columbia police announced they were searching for a white, four-door Mazda Protege in connection with a 3:30 a.m. Sunday shooting death on North Main Street. Images of that car were captured on nearby security cameras.

However, Scott said investigators could not link the same car to both crimes.

“We don’t know,” he said. “Our description of the vehicle that hit Lindsay is so vague.”

Bires graduated from high school in Danvers, Mass., a community about 20 miles north of Boston. She chose to attend USC because she wanted to go to college in a place that had warm weather, said her boyfriend, Dan Powers, 25.

During her five years at USC, she spent a year overseas in Australia and four months in China. She graduated in 2011 with a nursing degree, Powers said.

“She’s not scared of anything, that’s for sure,” he said.

She moved home after graduating but wanted to return to Columbia. Family said she had been “bitten by the Carolina bug.”

Bires and Powers have dated since high school, and she convinced her boyfriend to move south with her. The couple live in Charlotte, where Powers works as an accountant. She commuted to Columbia three days a week to work at Palmetto Health, Powers said.

After Bires was struck, Palmetto Health workers immediately came to her aid, as did an advanced life support ambulance, said E.T. Taylor, an administrator on duty at the hospital.

“If timing had been off just by a hair, I don’t know that we would have found her alive,” Taylor said. “God’s going to bless that girl.”

Taylor was the one who called Bires’s boyfriend in Charlotte and her parents in Massachusetts shortly after the accident.

Her sister happened to be spending the night with their parents and took the call.

“It was a nightmare,” MacKinnon said.

Now, the entire family has assembled in Columbia, where they wait around-the-clock for improvement. Bires suffered multiple broken bones and a brain injury. She already has undergone multiple surgeries, MacKinnon said.

Powers said his girlfriend does not deserve the trauma that has befallen her. She is a hard worker who enjoys concerts, skiing and trips to the beach during her free time, he said.

“Someone out there is watching TV while she’s fighting for her life in the hospital,” Powers said. “They know in their hearts what they did to her.”

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