‘I’m lucky to be alive’: Wife of Fall River mayor recalls crash that left her with serious injuries

SE Mass

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Judi St. Hilaire feels lucky to be alive after a vehicle ran her over during the first stretch of a long-distance bike ride on Halloween morning.

“It just happened so fast,” she recalled. “We didn’t have time to react. I don’t even know if I braked. I don’t remember.”

Her husband, Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan, said he was at an event at the city’s police station when he got the call.

“It said, ‘Judi’s cell’ on the phone, and I said, ‘What, is she stopping early or something today?’ And it was a guy calling me to tell me to meet her up at St. Luke’s, she had gotten in a bad accident,” Coogan said.

Coogan, who was just reelected to a second term last Tuesday, teared up as his wife gave her recollection of the crash.

St. Hilaire, 62, said she suffered multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung. She struggled with her breathing at times as she spoke with 12 News.

“As much of a recovery as this is going to be … it’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be painful, but I’m lucky to be alive, and that’s how I look at it and I just keep reminding myself of that,” St. Hilaire added.

The avid cyclist and former Olympic runner from Vermont said she was about 25 miles into a 65-mile ride when she felt her bike falling over at an intersection in Mattapoisett.

“I looked up and I was under a truck … and I was like, ‘what the heck happened here?’ And I didn’t realize he had run me over,” St. Hilaire recalled.

The driver, who has not been identified by police, reached underneath his vehicle following the crash, visibly upset and saying he was sorry, according to St. Hilaire.

Mattapoisett police have not released additional details about the incident, despite multiple requests from 12 News.

“It was bad judgment, but I don’t think people realize some of the bikers are moving faster than they are,” St. Hilaire said, adding that she doesn’t hold a grudge against the driver.

While St. Hilaire was in the ICU with serious injuries, she said a second cyclist suffered at least one broken rib while a third escaped without injury.

To the couple’s surprise, however, St. Hilaire’s bicycle came out of the crash seemingly unscathed.

“That’s what blows my mind, is not even a scratch on it,” she said.

In what she described as a “nasty” and “cruel” election, St. Hilaire said she was sad to miss out on the final days of her husband’s campaign.

“To go from planning an election, and you’re just so consumed with one thing, and then something like this happening … I’m bummed, it kind of ruined the excitement of the win,” she said. “I’m so glad we won, and I’m so glad he won the way he did.”

On Election Night, Coogan watched the first returns come in at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford before going to his watch night party in Fall River. He won with 62% of the vote.

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