Student struck by snowplow speaks out

By Mary-Lyn Buckley

When Rithika Ramasubbu, better known as “Rikki,” left Daly Dining Hall around 2 p.m. on March 7, she never anticipated to experience anything more than a five-minute walk through the eye of the storm.

Roads were covered in snow, high winds filled the air, and visibility was poor. Winter Storm Quinn passed through the area, causing Rider to cancel classes. Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in New Jersey.

Ramasubbu, a sophomore marketing major and team manager for the women’s basketball team, was wearing a powder white winter jacket with her hood up as she walked alone to her dorm, Lincoln Hall.

A university snowplow was parked on a one-way street just outside of Gee Hall when it suddenly reversed, striking Ramasubbu from the side, knocking her face first onto her stomach. She screamed.

“This was a very unfortunate accident,” said university spokeswoman Kristine Brown. “The university followed all of its policies and protocols related to an employee accident involving a university vehicle. We also cooperated with our local law enforcement officials, who completed their own investigation.”

She said the back wheel of the white Ford pickup truck ran over the left side of her body, starting at her foot, spinning up that side of her back and over her left shoulder blade. The front wheel followed in the same direction, striking Ramasubbu’s left foot first and then the left side of her back. In between her cries, Ramasubbu heard a pedestrian yell, “Stop!” This caused the vehicle to halt as the front wheel inched forward and a rod in the middle of both wheels rested firmly on top of Ramasubbu’s shoulder blade.

“I knew from experience, just from watching a lot of things, to keep calm, keep breathing and keep talking,” Ramasubbu said.

Amari Johnson, point guard on the women’s basketball team, ran to Ramasubbu, sliding under the truck to hold Ramasubbu’s hand as she lied helplessly. Her shoulder was trapped under the wheel of the snowplow.

“At first I didn’t know who was under the plow,” said Johnson. “I just wanted to go under there to make sure whoever it was, was still conscious. When I saw it was Rikki, I automatically felt a lump in my throat. I was going to stay under the truck regardless of who it was until the ambulance came because no one wants to be alone in a situation like that.”

Ramasubbu said, “I think I had so much adrenaline pumping that I didn’t feel the pain. I was in complete shock that this had happened to me. I knew the longer I was under the truck, the more serious this could be for me.”

Ramasubbu told Johnson she wanted to try and squeeze out from under the wheel, but it wasn’t possible.

The exact dimensions of the truck that struck Ramasubbu have not been confirmed, but according to cars.com, the curb weight of such a vehicle is estimated to be between 5,500 and 6,500 pounds. However, the pickup truck did not stand alone. Attached to the pickup truck was a commercial-grade snowplow, estimated to range from 7 to 8 feet in length. As stated on fisherplows.com, plows of this size weigh between 800 and 900 pounds.

Paramedics arrived and quickly lifted the wheel of the snowplow off of Ramasubbu’s shoulder. She was carried out, placed onto a stretcher and rushed to Capital Health Medical Center in an ambulance.

“I’m lucky to be alive. I have five broken ribs, a 5 percent shift in my lungs which negatively affects my breathing, a fractured tailbone, a compressed fracture on my spine and bruises all over my body,” Ramasubbu stated. “I can barely get up without so much pain.”

Ramasubbu vaguely recalls Public Safety officers helping to keep her calm before paramedics arrived. Public Safety also contacted her parents.

When asked about whether or not Ramasubbu and her family plan on pressing charges she stated, “I think we are all just making sure that my health comes first before we worry about anything else.”

President Gregory Dell’Omo, Provost DonnaJean Fredeen and Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg visited Ramasubbu in the hospital. Many Rider students, along with the women’s basketball coaching staff, also visited her.

Ramasubbu was released from the hospital on March 10 and returned to Rider on March 19. She said her breathing is back to normal and that she has a temporary boot on her left leg.

Brown said, “We are so happy that Rithika is recovering quickly and thrilled that she is returning to campus. We have kept her in our caring thoughts for the past two weeks and will continue to support her as she makes a full recovery.”

Ramasubbu said, “I’m just happy I’m in this state. I’m lucky. I’m overwhelmed. There are so many people reaching out to me, people I don’t even know. It’s really cool to see how much people care.”

A message she has for the driver that struck her is, “I hope he doesn’t feel too bad; everyone makes mistakes.”

Brown said the driver “was extremely distraught over this incident, and we provided support to him as well. We are grateful for the cooperation and assistance of everyone involved.”

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