Sandusky mom, toddler narrowly dodge disaster

A fast-thinking Sandusky mom scooped up her 2-year-old daughter and avoided certain disaster Monday night when a suspected drunken driver nearly plowed them over on Fifth Street.
Emil Whitis
Jan 5, 2012


It was instinct.

Donna Hansen, 22, snatched her daughter out of the car seat and turned away. In that same instant came the horrible crunch, pop and shower of windshield glass.

By some miracle, Hansen still stood on the Fifth Street curb, cradling Dalilah. Gone was her Mercury Mountaineer — a speeding SUV had plowed it into the neighbor’s yard.

“She almost killed my daughter,” Hansen said of the driver, Jessica Ricci, 25.

Ricci was later charged with operating a vehicle under the influence, two counts of failure to control and leaving the scene of an accident.

At about 9:45 p.m. Monday, Hansen was getting ready to leave her mother’s house in the 1200 block of Fifth Street. She sat her daughter, Dalilah Shepherd, 2, in the back passenger seat and was about to put a diaper bag down when her peripheral vision caught some movement.

Hansen said she looked over and saw a Chevy Trailblazer aimed directly at her vehicle.

“I saw the lights and grabbed Dalilah and turned,” she said. “I felt everything behind me.”

“My whole back got sprayed with glass ... there was glass in my hair, sweatshirt, pants, socks,” she said.

Hansen said she stood there for a few seconds, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

The driver of the mangled Trailblazer, meanwhile, continued spinning the vehicle’s tires in an attempt to break free from the Mountaineer.

Seconds later she succeeded, but not before one of Hansen’s friends jotted down the license plate.

Hansen snapped to and called police, only to find she couldn’t speak.

“I’ve never been so scared,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe.”

The Trailblazer blundered along for eight blocks before it crashed into another car at the corner of Reese and Warren streets.

When police arrived, Ricci was still sitting in the driver’s seat, a police report said.

In the end, no one was injured.

But Hansen is haunted by “what if.”

“My daughter was less than a second away from being killed, and (Ricci) gets off with a DUI and failure to control?” Hansen said. “That’s just not enough.”

Hansen said she always places her daughter into the SUV by way of the driver’s side, but for some reason she went to the passenger side Monday.

Had Hansen kept with her habit, it wouldn’t have mattered that she grabbed her daughter. The Mountaineer would’ve plowed right over them, she said.

“I lost my father back in ’94,” she said. “I know he was guarding us at that moment.”

For her part, Dalilah now has a story she tells everyone she sees.

“Our car is broken,” the girl said. “It’s terrible.”



WOW! Bless you and your little girl. Glad you are okay. I agree there needs to be a stiffer punishment for this drunken woman. DUI and failure to control doesn't seem enough at all


my oh my

I wonder if this is the daughter of Sandusky Fire Chief Paul Ricci...

old lady44870



my oh my

I wasnt meaning she should get special treatment here. I feel for all the innocent parties involved and the other people's vehicles destroyed on reese st and such....She should get the book thrown at her but with the weak DUI laws in Ohio that won't happen.


Thank God you two are alright....could have been a lot worse. Looks like someone is gonna be up for mother of the year award with this early submission*

Erie Countian

Yes, the driver is the daughter of Fire Chief Ricci. Used to be a good kid back in high school but guess she got in with the wrong crowd. I agree she should be punished more severely.

Most Wanted

Thank God the two of you are ok...I'm betting your dad was watching over you just like you said!  I'm also sorry for the family of the girl who was driving.  I hope she realizes what she did and that she just about wiped out two beautiful woman....both of whom have hardly begun their lives. 

here in ohio

ban alcohol  and close down the bars!!!!  this will stop the driving and drinking by 90% !!!!





Thank Heaven Mother & Daughter were spared physical injury.  Kudos to Mom for her strong instincts & thumbs up to Daddy/Grandpa for watching out.  We are definitely protected & guided by those who love us - even if they have to cross through many planes to make good things happen for us.  Ms. Ricci has a whole lotta growing up to do.  She was spared having death on her conscience - be thankful for that.  Go to rehab/AA meetings.  Get help.     


Thank goodness she had her father watching over her and her daughter. Hope the driver gets help and realizes she could have killed 2 innocent people.


I don't mean to make light of this, and I'm glad they're ok, but is the story here that something ALMOST happened? 


Well, lets see.  A young mother has no car, a scared daughter, nighmares about the incident, a back full of glass need I go on?  What does it take to warrant something "happening"?

Phil Packer

Yeah, somebody almost died. And somebody will almost get in trouble for it.


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I couldn't agree more that stiffer DUI penalties are needed whenever an incident beyond "mere" driving occurs. Hit a mailbox, it's a tougher deal than if you're simply pulled over. Hit a car (moving or otherwise), a still greater punishment. And a near miss like this one? More still.

I've never really cared one way or another if some idiot decides to get drunk and then drive. If they want to kill themselves, that's their business. The problem, obviously, is that lots of good, decent, innocent people are also on the road, and that makes it NOT just the business of the idiot in question. In fact, it makes it EVERYBODY's business at that point!

This mother and daughter are okay, but it could very easily have been a headline story about a mother and daughter who were killed or seriously injured. That it wasn't doesn't make the driver's actions any less reprehensible, and I think she ought to see some equally serious reperucssions.


Lets not forget leaving the scene of an accident...she needs a whole heck of a lot more of a punishment. won't happen and its beyond frustrating.


Banning alcohol and closing bars will not eliminate drinking or drunk driving incidents.  Have you never heard of  Prohibition?  Didn't stop anyone from selling alcohol or drinking it.  People will always do bad things until they decide not to.  Taking away the substances will only prevent a few from partaking.  Making everything illegal is not the answer either.  Some people like to break laws and think they mean nothing.  So, get a clue ohio.


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Awww..What a cute lil girl...Glad she has a quick thinking Mother. 

Just Saying

Ms. Ricci should be relieved because she was spared having death on her conscience?? - Ms. Ricci should be relieved because she will be spared going to prison for manslaughter.


I wonder if she was coming from a home off of First Street?? Uuummmm... 


Does anyone here know how it feels to wake up everyday with a scar on your body from a drunk driver? Its in my head and its on my body...I can never escape it.  Glad this little girl is so young and hopefully wont remember this. I had fairly the same occurance in highschool but we were both in cars. He drove off. He sat in jail over night and lost his license for 6 months while I sat in the hospital for 3 days medical bills haunt me..not looking for a "I am sorry" just tellin everyone that there should be harsher punishments.


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 Do u know Jess? Do u know for a fact that she is a heavy drinker? And drives drunk reguaLarly?

And what the hell does her father being the fire chief have tiO do with her? And her actions nothing u think u know things butu don't so shut the hell up with all your slander



 Ok peppyspice01 so you think if she would have killed these people she should be forgiven? With how upset you are about people speaking the truth I'm willing to bet that you also drive while intoxicated. Putting innocent people in danger,especially children is more than a mistake! She needs help and needs to surround herself with honest people who will tell it like it is, not people who will baby her and tell her that it was just a "mistake". Just think of what else she might do if she isn't given the help and punishment she needs. 


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 To stating the facts ...... U r just mad ur statement was reported u had a slanderous statement but yet your name is "stating the facts" maybe u should get some facts to post instead of unsupported statements!!


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 Ok this its about time someone gets on here that actually knows Jessie ricci!  She is like my sister she has made a mistake and it will haunt her forever!  Now I am sure all of u who have posted comments on this has never made a mistake!! Right??  Ya that's wha I thought you all talk about her like you know her and you don't!  Yes she is a nurse and a damn good one at that, she also works in a dr office!  Do u know for a fact that she goes to work with a hangover?  No u don't so shut your mouth and only state facts! She is s productive citizen in Ohio!  She comes from a very good family who does alot for this community! She has always been a great student! She made a mistake and I know she is never going to forget it! I don't think she needs the book thrown at her she should be punished certainly but not to the degree you greedy ppl are asking! Just because her dad is the police chief u want her to have the most severe punishment allowed?  I know alot of ppl who have done worse and just gets a slap on the wrist think about the ppl in your life do you know anyone Who has done something illegal and not gotten punished for it? As far as the stupid comment she drives drunk all the time?  R u with her while she is drinking and driving or are u just shooting your mouth of cause u r self riighteous? For all u idiots spouting off at the mouth about what's he must do or needs to do think about this....if u have kids did u raise them right? Did they ever make a mistake even if u raised them best way u knew how to?  And if the god forbid mistake was  as serious as this would u expect the book thrown at them in the manners u stupid ppl are demanding? No you wouldn't!! have some compassion! I've done stupid things in my life and  I'm thankful I've stayed clear of the law!  Sandusky is such a small town u crucifie everyone who has ever made a mistake!  You should all look in the mirror to make sure u can still say u r perfect!!  But none of u are!  And I am willing to bet half the ppl on this site commenting other story has a criminal record or a lowlife just trying to make ur self feel better! Get a job and a life! She is the day voter of someone she just some outcast! So unless u have facts that she is going to work drunk or hungover then stop spreading rumors and worry about yourself!  I am very thankful that the worst didn't happen for ll parties einvolved!


 Y was this taken down?

Erie Countian

I love how Ms. Ricci's defender, "Peppyspice 01", comes on here claiming she's "like a sister" to Ms. Ricci, but yet she says Ricci's dad is the POLICE chief! I guess she was so busy angrily typing such an eloquent (NOT!) statement really fast like she's texting... with her "u" and "ur" and "ppl" and other remarks that literally make no sense (and also cussing some commenters out)... that she forgot her "sister's" father is the FIRE chief. I also get sick of people who defend drunk drivers with the old "haven't you ever made a mistake" question. There is no excuse for Ms. Ricci's behavior. Being a NURSE who has made it her career to help and heal people, she should most certainly have known better than to get behind the wheel of a vehicle when she was so intoxicated and run the risk of hurting or killing some innocent person. There are many mistakes that can be easily forgiven, but driving drunk is NOT one of them, and it is inexcusable. Rather than cussing out concerned citizens, Ms. Ricci's friends should try and convince her to get the help she obviously needs!


 Really erie countians!!!  U r ignorant how was I cussing anyone out? That's right I wasn't! I stated facts did u? I agree she needs help but u don't know her at all do u? I was not angry at all I'm upset that u are all crusifing her like you are god! R u? No I didnt think so!  Who cares if I'm typing Like I'm texting do u have nothing better in your life to do but criticize ppl all day go do your job do you have one? What remarks don't make senses what do u need me to clarify for you?  She should know better than to drink and drive and her family and friends will make sure she gets it but who the hell are u? You have never done anything wrong? When u were young? I am willing to bet you have and just never got caught! I'm not saying she is right for drinking and driving cause if you know me I'm the first person u can call when u need a ride and have been drinking but u r nailing her to the stake for i something that almost happened? She almost killed ppl including herself but she didn't! She was charged appropriately leave her alone and speak facts worry about your life and kids and I hope u can say they have never drank an drove!


 I don't think there is one person on here that doesn't know someone if not themselves who has gone to a bar/ get together and a "few" drinks and then proceeded to drive home even though by definition of the law ou were intoxicated! Be honest I know plenty ofppl who drink and drive and I don't condone it one bit! U willing to turn all those other people in?  For breaking the law? Jess could have killed herself and other ppl! But thankfully " almost" didn't happen! She will punished! Don't you have faith in our court system?


I'm using my name because I won't hide my comments behind an alias.  I want people to know that I said it.

This is very simple.  You cannot punish or hold someone accountable for "what if".  If we went back and decided to hold all of you accountable for a mistake you made based on "what if", some of you would probably be in prison.  But, since we hold people accountable based on facts that can be proven and which cannot be disputed, You can only hold the driver accountable for DUI, failure to control, and fleeing the scene, and nothing else.  The only reason why half of you are even commenting is because of the way the story has been portrayed in the paper.  If it would have been the typical police blotter style entry, you would all have just said "ehh, whatever, another drunk driver".  The drivers father is irrelevent.  It has nothing to do with the driver at age 25.  the driver should be held accountable for these crimes in the same way that anyone in the city would be held accountable given the same basic circumstances.  shes a first time offender for anything.  If you wish to assume that the driver "probably" drives intoxicated on a regular basis, you are entitled to that assumption, but your assumption carries no weight in determining how the driver should be punished for THESE crimes, just as who the drivers father is carries no weight in determining punishment for THESE crimes.  Yes, things could have been a whole lot worse, be thankful and greatful that they weren't.  believe me, "what almost" happened will be enough burden to the driver for years to come, and between that and the sentence she receives, I'd say that is plenty enough accountability based on what happened.  Compassion is not about babying the driver because you know her personally, nor is it about crucifying the driver out of sympathy to the mother and daughter who "almost" were injured or killed.  Compassion is simply be greatful that the situation wasn't worse than it was, and even if it was, having enough human understanding to not exhibit feelings of hate and anger towards someone that you don't know personally and have no insight into that persons life, because in the end, everyone is still alive and well.


 Bottom line is NO ONE WAS HURT. You cannot punish someone for something that they DID

NOT do. She was charged appropriately for things she has done. All the "what if" crap is worth nothing. I'm sure she feels horrible for what she has done. Thank God no one was hurt. It was was unfortunate that it happened to the mom and the child. Jessicas family has nothing to do with this. Even if she is a nurse, it can happen to ANYONE. People make mistakes, and I'm sure she has learned from it. There is absolutely no need for this to be taken any farther than it has been. No one knows the true story for sure besides those involved because we all know the register likes to spice things up. Good luck to Jessica and God Bless all!


 Good luck to Jessica??? Wow. 


 Well said bballiko! The what ifs don't matter thankfully no one was hurt I know she's never going to forget what could have happened and what did happened!! I agree about the register spicing things up for gullible ppl! GOODLUCK to Jessica and I hope the mom and baby will be able to move on in there lives as well! It's very sad but it was. Mistake


 What if is not the question here, it goes down to the facts of you should not drink and drive.  It doesn't matter that she didn't plow over an innocent child and her mother, it's the fact that she almost did.  The legal system shouldn't be based on what if's.  If you drink, you should not get behind a wheel, it is common knowledge.  On top of the fact you shouldn't get behind the wheel you shouldn't DRIVE AWAY after an accident.  A young child could have lost her life.  Have you ever thought of putting yourself in the mothers shoe's instead of the shoes of the driver?  

To say she should get off lightly, to get off with failure to control 2x, dwi, and leaving the scene isn't enough, she should have to face the fact she almost mauled down not only a woman of this community, but also her innocent child.  To say that "Oh, she didn't kill the child so she shouldn't have to face any serious charges and a slap on the wrist is okay!" is ridiculous and nothing close to whathe laws say.     The law is the law, either face it, or don't break it.


 Thank you JessicaLeigh_ and myownopinion!! You people who are defending this drunken mess of a woman aren't doing her any favors in the long run! You can have my comments all taken down for all I care, because you know what she did is wrong! I don't care if she is your "sister" she is a mess and needs to learn a hard lesson or else she will continue to drink the way she does! I understand that she "almost" killed 2 people, but why did she drive away after it happened? Because she didn't want to get caught driving drunk!! She is not a young child! She is a grown woman! What if this would have happened to you and your child by someone you don't know??? You would be pretty upset wouldn't you? And how would you feel if you saw someone defending that persons actions simply because they didn't "kill" you??? Have some common sense. 


The fact is SHE DID NOT HIT ANOTHER HUMAN BEING! That's the facts! I agree with no drinking and driving! Some one could have lost their lives however it didn't happen y r all u ppl stuck on what could have happened the what ifs? It's simple it didn't happen thanks to god! I've looked at it both ways I would be upset if I was the mother however u can't convict someone on something that almost appen everyone still has there lives and every one is intact! The charges she is faced with are serious and the law will prevail! Do u even know what the law is? I think ur making ur own stuff up! Go read the laws on her charges and then write a statement that is worth reading!


why not also charge her with attempted vehicular homicide? criminals get charged with that when they are simply trying to outrun the cops? she knew what she was doing, if not she wouldn't have left the scene!


 Really attempted vehicular homicide? U r reaching now! Just let the courts do there jobs and u do urs! U have no clue what ur talking about look up the law and u can answer ur wn question!

Had Enough

 This is a very sad thing indeed, for the mother, the child as well as for the young woman who clearly was not thinking at the time.  But enough is enough,   The Sandusky Register is by nature, a sensational news paper, printing articles that would rival tne National Inquirer.  This is how they sell papers.  I do not condone drinking and driving, but I also do not condone printing an article the way it was written,  that would pit neighbors against neighbors.  I am very sure that Jessica accepts what she has done, or at least I hope that is the case.  I also am very sure that the law will prevail in this.  But if you look on the Sandusky Muni website, you will find this is a first time offense and I doubt she will have any jail time, which certainly looks like most of you want.  She will undoubtedly have her license taken for at least a year, as well as probably have work driving previledges  with a lovely party plate on her car.  If anything good can happen in all this, it is that this young woman learns a valuable lesson. Who her parents are, where she works, really is not an issue here, or should not be.   I wish the mother and child well, but as others have stated, no one was injured, no one really knows what has happened except the parties involved.  As I stated earlier, this newspaper is more of a National Inquirer status paper and may not print the exact accounts of what really happened.  Good luck to all. 


Julie R.

@ Peppyspice01: Have you ever attended a funeral for a two-year old child? If not, start praying that you never have to. What your friend did was not a mistake --- it was sheer ignorance and I sincerely hope your friend is smart enough to thank God for the rest of her life that she didn't kill that little girl.  


 She is smart enough to thank god for the rest of her life! And yes I have been its very sad but yet again the ill girl is fine and no one is planning a funeral! She will get punished but it is her first offense she shouldn't have the book thrown at her!


Peppyspice - you amaze me in many different ways.Enabling this drunken mess, and yes I called her a drunken mess for which I'll explain later, is not doing her or anyone out there driving on public streets or even getting in and out of their parked cars any favors in the future.

Let me ask you - you stated that because it is her first offense (you mean first time caught) we shouldn't "throw the book at her", strange - when should she be punished to the fullest extent of the law (legal definition for throwing the book at her) - AFTER she finally does kill someone while breaking the law?  Shouldn't everyone take the change of having the "book thrown at them" when they break the law?

Most violations of the laws have many various types or lengths of sentences attached to them - and each will have a maximum sentence attached to them - should the judge not base his/her decision as to how much sentence is given on the circumstances of the surroundings of the crime?  What I mean is that I'm sure there are many various sentences which could be given for a DUI first offense - and if this DUI had been on an open road with no accidents or crashes involved - then the sentence should be different than for the first offense DUI invovling multiple vehicles and almost killing two people?

Why can't you see that these are the right methods of determining the amount of sentence for a violator?  This offense of DUI is much worse than just weaving on the roadway.

And to answer a previous question - YES - DUI  involving an accident SHOULD be chargable as attempted murder with a deadly weapon.  And yes - a car is a deadly weapon and yes if you are incapable of controling your car because you are drunk, then you are attempting to kill someone using your car by operating that vehicle under the influence.

Everyone wants to blame the victims all the time - we need some of the violators to be held responsible for everything they do - not just the easy to convict on charges.

In light of my comments and feelings on this - THROW THE BOOK AT HER!  In other words, sentence her to the fullest extent of the law for each crime she was charged with.  No need to add other charges then - that will keep her busy and locked up long enough to stop drinking - don't make the sentences concurrent etiher - consecutive sentences so she stays locked up long enough to actually LEARN something.

This was no mistake - believe me - she got drunk and then got into the drivers seat and turned the key and drove the car down the road - doesn't make it a mistake - makes it a voluntary act.  Mistakes are one thing - this is no mistake - and someone who's a nurse and who's father is the fire chief should really know better - and those facts in themselves make it even less of a mistake.

She should also have her nursing license suspended until she gets out of jail and off the alcohol.  Can you imagine a drunk nurse tending to you as a patient???  Want to see the lawsuits from something going wrong there????

And the majority of Ohioans were concerned about people that smoke... Hahaha.

OK, I'm done on my soapbox.  But I don't know her, and don't really need to know her in order to form an opinion.  One last comment - stop blaming the register everytime you don't like what is being said about something.  The register reports and I believe most of what was printed in this story was from the victim and the police report - doesn't see how there could be more there - no one else wanted to comment - not really the register's fault.



Do you have any legal precedent here, or are you being an arm-chair lawyer and judge? You phrase your comment as to portray some type of expertise or advanced knowledge.

Being a first-time offender, there is legal precedent for that. The majority of cases I have ever heard do not "get the book thrown at them." Offenders do not get the maximum sentence just because random citizens feel this girl deserves years in prison.  Do you even understand what the maximum sentences are for these offenses? You claim she should receive the maximum sentence served consecutively. Do you truly think she deserves several years in jail? If you do, I feel sorry for anybody that has ever had any type of contact with you because you have the rationalization abilities of a rock.


@Statingthefacts Did I stutter? LOL to everyone who thinks that attemped vehicular homicide would even work here? She DID NOT HURT THEM. GET OVER IT. Do you punish someone for stealing when they could have stolen, but did not? NO you do not. YES she made a mistake but you cannot dwell on what DID NOT happen. She didn't try to kill anyone. Drunk driving is COMPLETELY unacceptable and I'm sure she will learn from it. This can happen to anyone. To call her a "drunken mess" is just a big fat NO. You probably don't even know her or the person she is. PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES. Everyone is sorry that it happened to the little girl and mother, but they were not harmed. Get your stuff together people!!!! 

I Judge you

Yo my girl peppyspice be for real! this be just fine, nobudy gots hurted. if you think me a pepspice be tripping them you might be undercover snitches. this girl haves every right to hits a pale person and get away with its.


Hey Peppysmell!       Leaving the scene too??!!!       Tells me much.     Ypl 

Peachy Keen

Peppyspice 01, why don't you try writing like an adult and read what you have written before you post it. Do you have children? If so, try imagining if YOU were Ms. Hansen and you see some idiot drunk driver about to plow into YOUR car as you are taking your child out of her carseat. You barely get your child out of the seat in time before your car is hit and you feel the impact right behind you as you try and protect your child. You get showered with broken glass. You cannot believe what happened and cannot shake the thought of what might have been had you been 30 seconds later getting your baby out of the car. I don't believe the Register is sensationalizing ANYTHING here, and if this had happened to YOU and your child, I bet you'd be singing another tune. If you want to defend your friend, why don't you just be supportive in private and quit trying to rationalize her stupidity on here! There is NO EXCUSE for what she did.


 sanduskysteve- Please pull your head out of your butt! Thank you. Now, The register is known for there HORRIBLE reports and making people look bad. They always spice things up so its a good story to read. No one is blaming the victims here, so not quite sure where you got that one from. If her dad is the fire chief and she is a nurse then SO WHAT. It can happen to anyone. It doesn't make them a bad person. How do you even know that she is a nurse for sure? You probably don't. Just because this happens to someone does not make them a bad person, a "drunken mess" (lol) or an alcoholic. Maybe she will not even recieve jail time for this. I'm sure she will get her license taken away for a while, and have huge fines and have to take classes, which is all neccessary. To come out and judge someone you do not even know makes you look really dumb for trying to sound so "smart" in your comment. 

Perkins Graduate

@ Peppyspice aka Trisha. You say nobodys perfect and your sure many people have had a few drinks and drove....that has nothing to do with this article. Jess clearly had more than a couple of drinks. She had to be completely trashed for her to hit a parked car, spin her tires to leave the scene, then crash into another car. I understand that you know her and want to defend her but maybe you should just keep that to yourself instead of looking stupid and defending her on here for something she did that was clearly wrong. If that was you with your kid that almost got killed I bet you would think differently. She needs to be charged for more than she's currently being charged with and maybe even suspended from her job.


 @Perkins Graduate She didn't do anything else wrong besides what she was charged for? Why charge someone else for something they didn't do??????? Also, her job has nothing to do with this. You people are crazy.....


My friend is a nurse and she told me that she could lose her nursing licence if she gets a DUI or any drug related charges.  Is this true?

Tru Grit

Sounds like friends protecting a friend for having one to many vodka, soda, with a splash of cranberry then getting the bright idea to get behind the wheel and drive like ol dale jr. Turn left, turn left DALE!!


Can't wait to see how this whole ordeal plays out in the court of law. I doubt any time will be done in an actual jail. A lot of community service and some fines. She is a nurse and pulls this kinda funny business, remind me to never go to where she is working, someone who takes a chance in a car like this won't be given an opportunity to stick as much as an IV, in this guys arm. 

Good to know Jessica has some people taking her back, some people on this whole SR blog forum are a bunch of honey badgers. 



Too bad she didn't have a concerned friend to take the keys away from her where ever she started from in that condition .  The reality of it is a split second later and we wouldn't be talking about a miracle , but a tragedy . Consequences should be harsher to drive home the message .