Local News

Friends, Family Hold Vigil For Critically Injured Durham Teen

Posted July 27, 2003 11:10 a.m. EDT

— Hundreds of people gathered Saturday night to support a Durham teen fighting for his life.

Matthew West was injured Tuesday when he was thrown from a Jeep after it was hit by a Durham police cruiser.

Family and friends came together Saturday night at the intersection of Vickers and Morehead avenues, where the accident happened less than a week ago. They shared stories of the young man they so admire.

"Matt is an incredible kid," said Tony Britt, a neighbor of West's. "He is the coolest kid I've ever met. He's fighting this courageously, and the family is as well."

Saturday's gathering included a candlelight service. Family and friends also left mementos at the site.

West remained in critical condition at Duke University Medical Center. He is in a medically-induced coma

Friday, West's parents spoke about the accident for the first time. Adrian and Robin West couldn't wait to get back to their son's bedside at Duke Hospital -- walking from the hotel where many friends and family are staying.

"We have not left his side except this morning, while he's having some testing," Robin said Friday.

Early Tuesday morning, Durham policeman Alfred Rodriguez drove his patrol car through a flashing red light. He hit the jeep carrying Matthew and two of his friends.

The officer and other boys are fine. But Matthew, a rising senior at Riverside High School, was thrown from the back seat of the jeep.

"Our son was parked over at Duke East campus and dropped his keys in the dark," Robin said. "The only reason he was in the back of that car was that he lost his keys."

Matthew was spending his summer at Camp Kanata for the 10th year as a camper or camp counselor. His family said that said as much as anything about his personality and character.

"A friend to everybody," Robin said. "A counselor, an advisor, a fun kid to be around. Never met a stranger."

Said Adrian: "He's been our guide in so many ways."

Durham admits that Rodriguez was at fault in the crash. He is on administrative duty while the police department conducts an internal investigation.

Matthew's family has nothing to say about pursuing legal action. They are focused on his recovery.

"We are just believing in the power of prayer," Robin said, "and a healing hand that he will get better.

"We need a miracle. That is all we can hope for."