Doctors Upgrade Condition of 9-year-old Hit-and-Run Victim

Photo: KYW-TV

A 9-year-old boy from suburban Philadelphia who was struck and severely injured by a hit-and-run drunk driver in SoMa last week, after watching his hometown team beat the Giants, has been upgraded from critical to serious condition, and his family says he faces a long recovery.

Ryan White began speaking in sentences this morning after giving only thumbs up and thumbs down responses, according to a statement issued this afternoon by his parents, Ken and Roseanne White. The statement was made available through the spokesperson for San Francisco General Hospital

“Ryan has a long road ahead of him, but he is young and strong and we expect steady improvement, especially when he can engage in full-time rehabilitation. We are working with doctors at SFGH to determine the best way for Ryan to return to Pennsylvania to continue his recovery,” the statement read.

White was walking with his family back to their hotel from the Giants game on Thursday evening around 10:30 when he was struck by a white Toyota pickup being driven by 21-year-old Andrew Alan Vargas of Hayward. Police said Vargas was driving drunk and traveling the wrong way on New Montgomery Street before he turned onto Mission Street, where the family was crossing.  The boy’s 58-year-old aunt, from Granite Bay in Placer County, was also hit, and suffered a foot injury.

Footage of Vargas’ pickup showed a smashed front end. Police said he also hit a number of cars after fleeing the scene. He was arrested in Hayward by police there about an hour later.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s office said Vargas has been charged with “two counts of felony drunk driving with injury and one felony count of hit-and-run with injury which also carries an allegation of causing great bodily injury.”

In addition, “one of the drunk driving with injury charges outlines violations of the vehicle code section that include: driving with an open container, failure to stop at a red light, driving the wrong way on a one-way street and failure to yield the right of way to a pedestrian.”

Vargas posted bail, which was set at $65,000, and has been released from jail. He’s expected to be arraigned on Thursday.

“The conduct alleged in this case is egregious,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “Driving is a privilege that carries a great deal of responsibility.  Anyone who puts other drivers or pedestrians’ lives at risk with reckless, careless behavior should not be behind the wheel and if they are, they should be prosecuted.”

White suffered “fractures to his pelvis, left leg and ankle and a laceration to his liver, and a traumatic brain injury that is slowly improving,” the statement said. The White family also thanked the many residents in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area who have offered their support for the young victim.

“We have been deeply touched by the outpouring of support from people we don’t even know, local residents and merchants, such as Lefty O’Doul’s, that are stepping forward. Thank you very much.”

Earlier today, Mayor Ed Lee visited White in the intensive care unit at SFGH, shook his hand and spent some time with the family. He arrived bearing gifts, including several backpacks, some San Francisco sweaters and jackets, a signed baseball and a picture of the Giants’ World Series trophy.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with him and his family as he recovers from this terrible incident,” Lee said in a statement. “I thank the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office for investigating this incident, holding people accountable and for supporting Ryan and his family in this extremely difficult time. I would also like to thank the doctors, nurses and administrators at San Francisco General Hospital for providing the best care possible for Ryan.”

Cards and letters can be sent to Ryan White, P.O. Box 542, San Francisco, Calif. 94104.