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Shared Pain, Shared Hope As Families Rally Around Sons, Hurt In Separate Accidents, They Support And Comfort Each Other

Four-year-old Angelo Reed lies in a bed on one side of Room 307 at Sacred Heart Medical Center. Keith Matt, 11, occupies the bed on the other side.

In a span of 26 hours last week, the boys were hit by cars in separate accidents, eight miles apart. Today, both are suffering from traumatic head injuries that threaten their lives.

And both of their families are pulling for them - while supporting each other.

Angel Reed, Angelo’s mother, walked into the hospital room Wednesday morning. Shauna Matt was holding her son’s hand.

“Congratulations,” Reed said to Matt. “I heard he opened his eyes.”

“Thanks so much,” Matt said, tears welling in her eyes. “When he opened his eyes, it was like the first time he opened them when he was a baby.”

The two families, thrown together by tragedy, have been holding vigil at the hospital, lending support to each other while hoping for the best.

Angelo, who goes by the nickname A.J., often has to be held down by doctors and nurses because moving too much will cause his bruised brain to swell even more. He is in critical condition.

Keith has to be moved by his physical therapist so he can retain what little motor skills he has left. Although faring a little better than A.J., Keith’s condition is still serious.

He was hit a block away from his Spokane Valley home last Thursday by a pickup truck while riding his bike at a busy intersection during afternoon rush hour.

A.J. was hit by a car while crossing the street Friday night in front of his Hillyard home.

The left side of A.J.’s face is caved in, and there are black and blue marks across his upper body and face. Chunks of his skin are missing from his shoulders, face and head after being dragged at least 25 feet.

“I can’t put it into words,” Keith’s father, Joe Bernhardt, said of the trauma. “I guess I look across the room and I know what Angel and her mother are going through. We’re praying just as hard for A.J. as we are for Keith.”

A.J. has had two brain surgeries and is expected to undergo another next week.

Police have arrested Brian Charbonneau, 16, on suspicion of vehicular assault for A.J.’s accident, near the intersection of Montgomery and Perry.

A.J. was walking home from Zip Trip with his 11-year-old brother, Timothy, and family friend Darren Schofield, 32. Police say Charbonneau was driving his Mercury sedan on the wrong side of the street. Timothy suffered minor bruises and was treated and released.

Police suspect Charbonneau may have been drinking.

“We were crossing the street, and all of a sudden I heard this car behind us,” Schofield said. “I looked up and I could see (the driver) was looking in another direction.

“How he missed me, I’m not even sure,” Schofield said. “Tim was holding A.J.’s hand, and he tried to nudge him out of the way.”

Even so, the family has had trouble convincing Timothy he wasn’t to blame.

“I found a piece of paper with Timmy’s handwriting on it,” Reed said through tears. “He wrote that he wanted to die. He thinks it’s his fault that A.J. was hit.

“Tim’s the oldest,” she continued. “He’s not the big brother, he’s the man of the house.”

Keith, a sixth-grader at Keystone Elementary, was hit while riding with a group of friends at Sixth and Pines.

Donald Willis, 43, who lives in Mead, hit the boy as he traveled north on Pines in his truck. The Washington State Patrol said the collision was an accident.

“(Willis) and his wife have stopped by and called us every day,” Shauna Matt said. “They’ve been great.”

Keith’s classmates, teachers and school principal have come through as well, visiting and sending cards and flowers.

“Everybody has been so wonderful,” Shauna Matt said. “I just want to thank them all.”

A trust fund has been set up for Keith at Washington Mutual to help cover medical expenses.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo