Indy bicyclist’s family says he’s lucky to be alive after hit and run crash

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Michael “Tony” Cooper’s family says he’s lucky to be alive after he became a victim of a hit-and-run crash and somehow found his way to the governor’s residence for help.

Now, his family and police are looking for more information about whoever left him severely injured in the road.

“Grace saved him,” his mother, Cathy Cooper, said.  “Just the fortuitous nature that he was where he was.”

Cooper’s family says he always rides his bike, including to and from his work as a sous chef at Liter House. Last weekend, he left work and called his girlfriend to let her know he may play pool with some co-workers, then head home and do laundry. That was about 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 20.

Just a few hours later, he called again.

“So about 3 o’clock then he calls his girlfriend and all he could say to her was ‘help no teeth’ and she’s like ‘where are you?’ and the phone just went dead,” Cathy Cooper said.

About 2:15 a.m., police said Cooper had traveled south on his bike in the 4700 block of N. Meridian, when a driver also going south hit him, causing him to fly off the bike. The driver didn’t stop.

“How he managed to lay there unconscious for an hour, maybe longer, and get on his feet and go look for help is a miracle in itself,” Cathy Cooper said.

She said her son somehow got up looking for help, and seeing two lights, ended up at the governor’s residence. That’s when Cathy Cooper said police came out to meet him, realized he was badly injured and got him help.

She said Cooper’s girlfriend, an emergency room nurse, was driving around looking for him and was notified when he was brought to the emergency room.  Cathy Cooper said most bones in his face were broken, the cartilage was shattered, five ribs were cracked, a leg was broken, there was a crack at the base of his skull and his vertebrae was compressed.

He underwent a 7 1/2 hour surgery to reconstruct his face and had about 70 staples put in his head.

“That’s part of the miracle, he’s expected to totally recover,” Cathy Cooper said.

While he recovers in the ICU, his family revisited the scene of the crash passing out fliers asking for information. Police are looking for that, too.

“You’re looking at a bicyclist that’s doing the right thing. They’re going south on the roadway and then they get struck by another vehicle that’s going south and that driver fled the scene. And that’s a problem we do see here occasionally in Indianapolis where somebody leaves the scene, and it could be for a number of things,” IMPD Sgt. Jim Gillespie said. “It could be that they might be in trouble with the law already. But a lot of times what we also get is folks that are afraid.”

Since 2017, police report more than 2,000 hit and runs encompassing everything from a scratch to fatalities. But no matter what the reason in this case, police are asking for the driver to turn themselves in and for the public to help.

Investigators said the vehicle was described as a 2010 or newer, white or light colored, Ford 4-door sedan that may have front end damage from the collision. Police are also hoping a blue car reported traveling next to the light colored car may have witnessed the crash.

“Someone obviously wasn’t paying attention and the fact that they didn’t stop, people who don’t stop have reasons for not stopping, and that has to change,” Cathy Cooper said.

She wants drivers to pay attention to bicyclists.

“I really want them to hear that it’s not just my son it’s theirs and their daughters and themselves and maybe even their elders that are riding bikes around town. And just you know be safe. Watch out for the motorist. But I would really like the motorists to respect the fact that the bicycles have as much right to be on the highways and byways, the city streets as they do, it’s just another form of transportation,” Cathy Cooper said.

Police remind motorists if you’re approaching a bicycle to make sure you allow enough space and wait until it’s safe to pass them.

They also remind bicyclists to stay to the right, have lights and obey the traffic laws.

If you have any information about Cooper’s case, call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS or the IMPD accident investigation office at 317-327-6549.

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