Arrow-right Camera


Cda Man Loses Wheelchair In Accident Police Search For Suspected Hit-And-Run Driver

The color red flashed before Robert Quast’s eyes just as the truck hit him.

As the Coeur d’Alene man fell to the pavement, the vehicle sped away, dragging his wheelchair.

“He just kept going and he never stopped,” Quast said Wednesday as he lay wrapped in blankets on his living room couch. “He must have known he hit something.”

Quast, 43, suffers from cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair to get around.

He was heading west on Sherman Avenue about 11 p.m. Tuesday on his way to meet his mother.

As Quast crossed the entrance into Henry’s Restaurant, a bright red Bronco or Blazer-type vehicle pulled out of the restaurant’s parking lot and ran into him.

“I thought he was going to stop but he just kept coming and coming,” Quast said.

There is a streetlight within several yards of the restaurant entrance. Quast was riding on the shoulder of the street.

The impact threw Quast from his wheelchair, according to a Coeur d’Alene police report. The truck dragged the chair 200 yards, scattering pieces of it.

Quast was taken to Kootenai Medical Center with a fractured left ankle.

Coeur d’Alene police spent Wednesday looking for vehicles that match Quast’s description. But by evening, they hadn’t located the hit-and-run suspect, said Capt. Carl Bergh.

Meanwhile, Quast lay with a brace around his foot, occasionally wincing at the pain.

“I’m wondering how I’m going to get to work; I need the wheelchair for my transportation,” he said quietly. “It’s a real big key to my independence.”

Quast, who works at the Ironhorse Restaurant, always has suffered from the central nervous system disease. For most of his life, he used crutches to get from place to place.

“He never wanted to use a wheelchair; he’s too stubborn,” his mother, Gloria Jellesed, said Wednesday with a Panamanian accent and a smile. “He thinks he can do everything like everybody else.”

But last year, doctors told him the crutches were bad for his hips and shoulders.

Since then, Quast has depended on his little gray and black four-wheeler. The electric wheelchair whisks him to and from work or to shoot a game of pool at a neighborhood tavern.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Quast admits.

He works at night and says he’s never had any problems traveling in the dark before. The wheelchair has two small lights on the back and one on the front, and Quast said he drives on the edge of the street in the parking lane.

Still, his mother said, “I always worried that something like this would happen.”

The steering column was ripped from her son’s wheelchair. Part of the front end is crushed and Quast doubts it will ever run again.

The four-wheeler cost $2,300 and was uninsured, he said.

“If I was driving and I hit somebody I would stop,” Quast said.

Click here to comment on this story »