Local News

Raleigh Teen Continues Recovery From Crash That Killed Deputy

Posted September 29, 2003

— A teenager who survived a tragic car crash is recovering at home after more than two weeks in the hospital.

Jessica Anderson, 17, was seriously injured in the accident that killed a Wake County sheriff's deputy.

Since being released from the hospital, life at home is a series of challenges for Jessica. From walker to wheelchairs to braces to doctor's appointments, her family is helping her every step of the way.

On Sept. 5, after playing soccer with friends, Jessica Anderson got behind the wheel of the car she had just bought with money she earned from bab-sitting.

Her mother, Linda, described the phone call that came next.

"The gentleman said, 'Your daughter's been in an accident and she wanted me to call home,'" she said.

Linda Anderson thought the accident could not be serious since Jessica had asked for her.

"Then I heard the ambulance and I thought, 'No.' That's when the praying started," she said.

When they arrived at the scene of the wreck, they saw a Wake County sheriff's deputy had lost control of his cruiser and slammed head-on into Jessica's, pinning her inside.

Deputy Frank James died from his injuries.

"Until we were at the hospital we didn't know a deputy was involved. We heard he died. It was terrible," Glenn Anderson said.

Jessica suffered a broken femur and collarbone, and cuts on her face and elbow.

There was more news that stunned the Andersons. Under state law, the Wake County Sheriff's Office is not financially liable for the accident.

"They claim government immunity. They have no legal liability. You lost your car and spent 19 days in the hospital. As far as the state's concerned, that's too bad," Glenn Anderson said.

The Andersons hope to get the law changed.

Still, they feel very lucky. Jessica's medical bills are covered by her father's insurance and her injuries are not permanent. The family knows the accident could have been much worse.

"We got a different phone call than someone else did. I thank God for that," Linda Anderson said.

Jessica did not start driving until she had saved enough money to buy her own car and pay for her own insurance. The Sheriff's Office is taking up a collection to buy Jessica a new car.

Wake County commissioners will talk about buying liability insurance at their next meeting. Jessica and her family plan to be there.

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