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Hit-and-run victim recovered, Rendezvous driver never found

Derek Luke is happy to be out of the wheelchair he was forced to use following the Feb. 17 hit-and-run accident in downtown Oxford. (click for larger version)
September 11, 2013 - For Derek Luke, the road to recovery and normalcy has been a long, arduous one, but it seems his journey is finally at an end.

"I'm feeling good," said the 29-year-old Lake Orion resident. "I just had my sixth and hopefully, final surgery (on Aug. 29)."

Luke spent the last six months recovering from a hit-and-run accident in downtown Oxford.

On Sunday, Feb. 17 at approximately 12:20 a.m., Luke and a group of friends were crossing M-24 (S. Washington St.), just north of the Dennison St. intersection, when he was struck by a southbound Buick Rendezvous that came speeding out of nowhere.

The impact sent Luke flying through the air. He landed flat on his back on the cold, hard asphalt and was covered in blood from head to toe.

Witnesses reported the driver of the Rendezvous just kept going. His or her vehicle was last spotted in Lake Orion turning onto E. Flint St. on the night of the accident, but the driver was never found. The Rendezvous had a light color, either white, silver or tan.

Luke sustained multiple, severe fractures to his pelvis, face, back and leg along with multiple internal injuries including life-threatening ones such as bleeding between his brain and skull.

When all's said and done, Luke estimated his medical bills amounted to "well over $100,000."

"I was lucky enough to have insurance," he said. "Otherwise, it would have wiped me out."

Fortunately, as far as Luke knows, he's not suffered any permanent injuries as a result of the accident.

"Everything's back to normal," he said. "I've finished all my physical therapy. Now, I'm just at the gym, basically doing it on my own. I was able to put all the weight back on and get back into shape."

Luke will return to his job on Sept. 30 as a clinical analyst for Anthelio, a Dallas, Texas-based company that provides information technology support services to the McLaren healthcare system.

The investigation into who hit Luke has borne no fruit.

"The private investigator wasn't able to find anything out," he said. "(The Oxford Village Police) said it's still an open case, but I haven't heard anything in months."

"Unfortunately, nothing's developed," said village Police Chief Mike Neymanowski. "Sometimes in these hit-and-run cases that's unfortunately what happens."

He said that Officer Clint Ascroft still works the case whenever he can and keeps in touch with local autobody repair shops.

"We checked (out) just about every Buick Rendezvous registered up here in northern Oakland County and nothing (came of it)," Neymanowski said.

The chief believes the only way this case will be solved is if the driver comes forward or someone who knows who's responsible "spills the beans."

"It's still an open case," Neymanowski said. "But we haven't got any phone calls (regarding it) in quite a long time."

Anyone with information regarding the hit-and-run is asked to call the village police at (248) 628-2581.

Luke said he doesn't have anything to say to the person who basically left him for dead.

"I don't hold any resentment or anger towards whoever it was (who did this)," he said. "I'm moving on. At this point, I'm pretty much done dwelling on the negative aspects.

"The way I look at it (is) I've got another shot at life here. I'm just trying to make the most of it. I'm lucky to be where I'm at and I'm just going to take every day as it is moving forward."

Aside from the obvious physical impact, the accident also had a significant mental impact on Luke, a positive one.

"I definitely appreciate life a lot more than I did before," he said. "It really makes you understand that you could be gone at any moment. You appreciate what you have and you really try to make the most out of each and every day because you realize that you might not be here tomorrow.

"That's not something you normally think about, especially when you're as young as I am. I've just tried to learn from everything that I went through and hopefully, come out a better person on the other end."

The hardest part of this whole ordeal for Luke was instantly going from a very physically active, athletic person to someone who spent months either laying in bed or sitting around in a wheelchair, watching television.

"It was killing me not being able to do anything – no hunting or fishing or sports or exercise," said Luke, who was part of the 2001 state champion Iron Mountain High School football team.

"I could hardly even go out for dinner. It was definitely a tough go. I wouldn't want to do it again."

Luke is grateful to all the family members, friends, medical personnel, community members, local businesses and even strangers who contributed to his recovery by supporting and motivating him in so many different ways.

"A huge thanks to everyone that's helped me get through it," he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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