Motorists (Mom's driving their kids to school) ignored girls lying on street in blood after fatal hit-run !!!
February 3, 2003 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Motorists (Mom's and Dad's driving their own kids to schools) ignored little girls lying on street in blood after fatal hit-and-run !!! (Palo Alto, California)

Tom Malzbender can forgive the Palo Alto teenager Megan Joelle Coughran (18-year-old Palo Alto High School senior and a church's day care worker) who allegedly struck and killed his 6-year-old daughter and injured another girl before his eyes, then drove off....

What Malzbender can't forgive are the two motorists behind the hit-and-run driver Tuesday morning, the ones he watched drive past two bloody, injured girls by the side of a narrow road near his house.
"That is (messed) up," Malzbender said. "Who knows. Maybe I could have put Amy in the back of one of their cars and taken her to the emergency room."

1. Now, what the hell is wrong with these people ? (if you ask me they all deserve a long long jail time)
2. Why people don't pay attention when they drive ? (especially when you see pedestrians or cyclists !)
3. Latest Hit-and-run (or kill-and-ignore) accidents in the Bay Area Jan 28th, Jan 23rd, Jan 15th, Oct 30th, Oct 22
posted by bureaustyle (39 comments total)




(sorry, couldn't resist)
posted by bizwank at 10:38 PM on February 3, 2003

Maybe I'm missing something... "What Malzbender can't forgive are the two motorists behind the hit-and-run driver Tuesday morning, the ones he watched drive past two bloody, injured girls by the side of a narrow road near his house." Why the hell was he watching them drive off? He should have been running to save his little girl instead of watching the accident unfold.
posted by banished at 10:44 PM on February 3, 2003

I think the sentiment is a little inconsistent. If any of the subsequent passerby drivers could have stopped to help the Malzbenders, surely the 18 year old who hit her could have. Then again, after just having watched your daughter die, sentiment might more likely be a realm at riot than consistent. I can appreciate the fact that I have no idea what hitting a 6 year old girl would do to my state of mind.

Bottom line, though: evading personal responsibility for what you can do to help around you, and evading personal responsibility for things you've done are a real problem. Reader's Digest is annoying sometimes, but reading their "Heroes For Today" section sure helps keep back the nihilism.
posted by namespan at 10:52 PM on February 3, 2003

These people don't deserve "long jail times". I like to think that I would have helped the girls if I saw somebody hit them. I think in fact that I would. That said, I would also be freaked out if I hit them or saw them hit, as probably would anyone.

If I had hit them, the temptation to flee would be there - especially if I were a teenager. As for the people who didn't stop to help - seeing a sight like that is horrific. These people may have been so shocked that it didn't even occur to them to stop to help the girls until they were half a mile away. Is it wrong for them not to have stopped, or at least turned around when they passed them up? Yeah, probably. But let's not excoriate them as "demons of society", as we weren't in that harrowing situation, and thus we are not very qualified to judge it. I'm betting that those people are probably full of guilt now that one of the girls has died.
posted by SilentSalamander at 10:55 PM on February 3, 2003

Stories like this are always a little redundant. I mean, the whole thing is so clearly black and white. yes, the people who did nothing are awful. Yes, the death of a girl was tragic. And? Don't mean to sound callous, this is a sad, and painful story. But what discussion is there to be had? Who will speak out on the side of the hit & run drivers or the people who passed by without stopping, to get any kind of debate going? No one, obviously. That viewpoint is absurd, thus, a one sided news story.
posted by jonson at 11:08 PM on February 3, 2003

Really, there is no "yeah, probably" about it. You hit someone you help. In fact I'm almost completely amazed that someone would try and even remotely imply fleeing the seen was "not wrong".

Avoiding facing the consequences is solidly imo a demon of society.
posted by rudyfink at 11:13 PM on February 3, 2003

This is not a defense of the passersby, however I was taught that you do not move accident victims because of potential neck or back injuries.
posted by mischief at 11:39 PM on February 3, 2003

Let me speak for a moment from the other side of this issue. I was a few years ago hit by a car. As I lay beside the street, I witnessed not only strangers, but also my co-workers blithely driving by. None had time to stop. When I had learned how to walk again, and returned to work, the only answer I got to my queries of why the indifference was that they didn't think there was anything they could do. I still think it reprehensible.
Think, people! It is worth your time to attempt to help, even though it may be temporarily inconvenient.
posted by scottymac at 11:59 PM on February 3, 2003

For fuck's sake, yes, scottymac! My god, who raised these people?? Palo Alto yuppies in Audis no doubt - the very namesake of "outtahere" - without a single thought. Sheezus, it's like a bad cliche... if a Palo Alto yuppie is struck by an SUV on 101, and no one stops to help, does it make a sound?

No wonder people hate California (yes, I live there and love it).

When people throw up their hands and ask "what kind of a world do we live in?" I know exactly what they're talking about.

And if you've never experienced anything different, I highly recommend you look around.
posted by scarabic at 12:09 AM on February 4, 2003

this is just bad....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:12 AM on February 4, 2003

California needs a Good Samaritan Law like Vermont. No jail terms though, only a $100 fine. Still, it's a very communitarian idea.
posted by boltman at 12:21 AM on February 4, 2003

Also, I suppose you might be able to use such a law to sue the pants off of the passerbys if you could prove that their failure to lend assistance caused the injury or death.
posted by boltman at 12:22 AM on February 4, 2003

I'm sorry, but the article is incredibly vague and poorly written. What we do know is a young girl has died and another was injured after being hit by a vehicle. The vehicle that hit the girls did not stop. We don't know why. Other vehicles allegedly passed by and did not stop. We don't know why.

This is just a public flogging post with a loaded backend.

MetaFilter: The New Village Stockade.

What I found most disturbing about the article was this: "Neighbors consider Miranda so safe that Amy was seen going door-to-door recently with a group of Girl Scouts selling cookies." The implication that neighborhoods exist (not that I necessarily doubt it) where Girl Scouts are not safe to sell cookies is just wrong.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:41 AM on February 4, 2003

Well, I'll be the first to admit that all I'd do is phone 911.

Sorry, but too many of you jerks out there (you know who you are) have given me the hebejeebies about getting sued for everything.

If I was in the US, I don't even know if I'd want to phone 911. God only knows that if you can make millions from McD's for too-hot coffee, you can probably sue for being prevented from commiting a crime.

But, on second thought, I suppose I would call 911, lest I be sued by the victim's parents for negligence.

And sorry, scottymac, but I wouldn't know you from Adam on the street. You might be like the nut who wanted $500 from me for the scratch I put on their bumper, for all I know. I just don't have the time or money to defend myself in court, sorry.

There you go. Go ahead and insult me for my opnion. Hell, call me an Asshole! I'm cynical enough already that I doubt it'll make a blind bit of difference. And, contrary to popular opinion, living that cynical is easy. If you know anything involving the support of a stranger is going to end up one big fuckup, you simply find you have more time on your hands to do what you want to do.

[ It would be nice to hear a better life expierience from someone else, though. :-/ ]
posted by shepd at 1:13 AM on February 4, 2003

Maybe they were trying to follow the driver, so she didn't get away? It seems like that would have been more helpfull over all then just stoping, if they were not trained medical personel.

The thing is, you don't know what they were thinking, so STFU.
posted by delmoi at 1:16 AM on February 4, 2003

Dick Paris,

Do we know why ? Unless your brakes don't work, you fucking stop, it's the law !
posted by bureaustyle at 1:41 AM on February 4, 2003

You certainly have a right, as anyone else does, to practice your own sense of moral obligation, shepd (at least where it's legal w/r/t failure-to-assist laws).

Could you do us a favor, though? Just pick up one of those Medic-Alert bracelets inscribed with instructions not to help you if you're bleeding to death in the street. It may save someone else the time and trouble, and it will allow you the chance to more fully and honestly practice your own version of humanity.
posted by troybob at 1:54 AM on February 4, 2003

The story is vague, but the basic facts (such as they are) clearly indicate something of a fucked-up situation from the point of view of human decency, if not from a bullshit legalistic perspective.

A few of the comments on this thread are a bit fucked-up too - or maybe it's just me. I'm sorry, but having been involved in a broadly comparable incident a few years ago, I simply do not understand how the urge to come to the assistance of a seriously-injured child, in whatever circumstances, in whatever shitty little way you can (hold their hands, try to talk to them - whatever), can be anything other than instinctive.

In other words, what rudyfink said. Also, what steve_at_Linwood said - forget the over-analysis of the situation, a failure to even try to help in the circumstances [poorly] described is simply bad and fundamentally lacking in humanity.
posted by Doozer at 2:36 AM on February 4, 2003

Living in a country where everybody stops to make sure you're okay if you stop by the roadside, I find this absolutely incredible.
posted by spazzm at 2:43 AM on February 4, 2003

Part of the explanation might be group thinking:
"They person ahead of me didn't stop, so it's propably a bad idea for me to do it. Maybe he/she knows something I don't."
posted by spazzm at 2:45 AM on February 4, 2003

I think what happens is that a lot of us California's drive SUVs and can't see the ground that around us. We can only see the area about 15 feet ahead of us and around the sides of our Urban assault vehicles. Hell,

Seriously though, perhaps the driver's simply did not see what happened. And a LOT of drivers don't look at anything other than what is infront of them. I know there is this intersection where I live that I swear someone is going to get hit in. It's a 4 way signal, and when a person can walk in this one direction (with the WALK signal saying so) there are a LOT of people who continue to make a right turn into the path of people walking. I have seen many people start walking and cars having to abruptly stop because the driver was not paying attention. If I remember my DMV rules, cars do not have the right of way when a pedistrian has a WALK signal.

Regardless, if I should ever see something like the accident described, I would stop, and see what I could do (call 911, etc, etc). I pray to GOD I never see such a scene.
posted by ericdano at 2:57 AM on February 4, 2003

My medic alert bracelet is the fact I signed the "give my body to local university" part of my donor's card while living in a town full of universities. ;-)

Now, if all you non-jerks out there (and there's probably quite a few of you) were to wear "I don't sue for kicks" medic alert bracelets, I'd be a new man.
posted by shepd at 3:12 AM on February 4, 2003

Part of the explanation might be group thinking: "They person ahead of me didn't stop, so it's propably a bad idea for me to do it. Maybe he/she knows something I don't."

Nailed it on the head. Just group mentality, not demonic disposition. Is it right? Well, I would prefer to live in a society where every person does stop. As for the driver, obviously she's at fault, but she's not a bad kid - she was terrified, for fuck's sake. It's time we stopped demonizing these people and started analyzing why human beings are prone to (negatively) act in a swarm in situations like that.

What are you, Christian Conservative?
posted by SilentSalamander at 3:39 AM on February 4, 2003

I'm neither, SilentSalamander, but I think the point of the fathers rage was that those who hadn't just killed his daughter showed no concern for their fellow humans.

Maybe they didn't see the father performing CPR on his daughter. More reason for rethinking the design of SUVs.

I can tell you the complete feeling of helplessness you have in that situation. In 5th grade my best friend and I were walking side-by-side to school. He turned to cross the street. Yes, it was the middle of the street and not the crosswalk. Yes, he didn't look. How do you describe the feeling of standing by while your best friend lies dying and you're yelling and watching cars driven by "adults" just drive around you? What could they do after all?

How about this: stop, judge the situation, help reroute traffic, call for the police, help calm the injured, offer a blanket for those in shock, offer to watch other children as parents race to the hospital.

And worrying about being sued for trying to help is simply a cop-out.
posted by ?! at 5:43 AM on February 4, 2003

A relevant law in California:




s 1714.2. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation; emergency care; immunity from civil liability

In order to encourage citizens to participate in emergency medical services training programs and to render emergency medical services to fellow citizens, no person who has completed a basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation course which complies with the standards adopted by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiac care, and who, in good faith, renders emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the scene of an emergency, shall be liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions by suchperson rendering the emergency care.

(b) This section shall not be construed to grant immunity from civil damages to any person whose conduct in rendering such emergency care constitutes gross negligence.

And if you haven't had CPR/ First AId training...why not?
posted by ?! at 5:44 AM on February 4, 2003


We still don't know why the story unfolds as it is told in the article.

Would I stop if I saw something was amiss? Would I stop even if I only suspected something was amiss? Yes and yes. I've stopped along highways and byways for all kinds of reasons: gas, breakdown, accident, near accident. (My favorite memory being the one for the guy who was drunk and puking his guts out after careening onto the grassy shoulder on a winter night. Thankfully no one was hurt and a state trooper showed up about 5 minutes behind me).

What's the difference in what I am saying versus the article? The first person. I knew in the past and can predict in the future what I am likely to do when called upon to be a good samaritaine.

The story is heart wrenching and potentially damning (literally or figuratively depending on one's faith) but the truth in this story may be eluding us.

Your use of "you fucking stop" in your response to me sounds like you are angry and you have every right to be. I'll assume, though, that you are not angry at me personally because that would be rude.
posted by Dick Paris at 5:45 AM on February 4, 2003

what I am likely to do when called upon to be a good samaritaine.

What is a "Good Samaritan Law?"

posted by thomcatspike at 7:17 AM on February 4, 2003

Why the hell was he watching them drive off? He should have been running to save his little girl instead of watching the accident unfold.

What an astonishingly bizzare thing to say.
posted by ed\26h at 7:26 AM on February 4, 2003

That morning started as usual at the Malzbender house, Tom Malzbender and the three children riding their bikes to school, everybody with their helmets on.

Amy, suffering from massive head injuries, was pronounced dead several hours later at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

While some neighbors have wondered about the safety of that part of Miranda Avenue, which doesn't have curbs or sidewalks, Tom Malzbender said, "There's nothing wrong with the road."

Robbins said he felt rage at the driver until he heard it was allegedly Coughran. Now, he said, he doesn't know what to think.

And the neighbors who know both families are struggling for something to lean on.

Could there have been more done to have prevented this from happening?

Any guarantees that she could have been saved?

Think, people! It is worth your time to attempt to help, even though it may be temporarily inconvenient.
posted by thomcatspike at 7:51 AM on February 4, 2003

A few things to think about:

Most people don't have even the most rudimentary first aid training. They can't apply a tourniquet, perform CPR, or do anything else which could help a critically injured person survive.

Laypeople don't have backboards in their car. Ambulance response times are less than five minutes in places like Palo Alto -- whereas the time to drive to the hospital and find the ER entrance in a layperson's car lacking sirens is probably considerably more. So, someone who would try to move an accident victim herself would both risk serious further injury by moving a non-imobilized person, and would actually deprive the victim of key early interventions which the EMTs could provide within seconds of getting on scene. EMTs can open airways and administer oxygen, close off hemoraging wounds, apply shock paddles and administer drugs which can restart and/or maintain respiration or heartbeat.

When you consider the above, that there is very little a layperson can do, and when you further consider the huge legal risks that a layperson getting involved faces, one has to sympathize with the people who drove on, even if it is something you wouldn't do yourself.
posted by MattD at 8:43 AM on February 4, 2003

MattD: Sorry. I just don't buy that excuse. There are many things a layperson can do. (see above) No one said that each person driving by is expected to "save a life." To witness or closely follow on an accident and not render any sort of help is shameful.

And if you don't know CPR or basic lifesaving techniques you are doing your loved ones, co-workers, neighbors, and random strangers a disservice.

thomcatspike: thanks for the link.

For Americans looking for CPR, First Aid or AED classes.
posted by ?! at 9:54 AM on February 4, 2003

One other thing has been bothering me about this story -- a bit off the intended discussion -- and that is the wearing of helmets. I'll bet my bottom dollar that the helmets were not being worn correclty. I see this so often, especially, for some reason, on young girls. That helmet does no good if it is not being worn correctly. /grumble
posted by Dick Paris at 9:58 AM on February 4, 2003

Lesson learned: make damn sure that your kinds stay off of the road.

This all could have been prevented.
posted by Witold at 11:04 AM on February 4, 2003

It's probably useful to find out what you're supposed to do if you come upon an accident. Here's a link to a page at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety that explains it quite simply.

Important parts:

Slow down, but do not stop unless you are the first on the scene or signaled to stop. If help is already at hand, stopping will only further congest the area and handicap those who are giving aid.

Do not move injured persons unless they are endangered by traffic, fire, or excessive bleeding.

I witnessed a one car accident on Sunday, as a car that was 5 cars ahead of me on a two-lane road drifted across the centerline and crashed into the ditch in some trees. All the cars between me and his car pulled over immediately to help. But I ended up leaving a few minutes later since there were already so many people there helping, more were stopping every minute to try to help, and there was not much I could do except get in the way and gawk.

Though it did make me realize I should be carrying a more substantial first-aid kit in the car and probably a blanket too.
posted by pitchblende at 11:22 AM on February 4, 2003

I work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at a major medical center. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to save a life, in that case you take care of the living. To have a child critically injured by someone who just drives off followed by others who just drive by is something that would enrage the average parent. For those here who say that there is nothing they have to offer at a scene like this please just keep driving. Your compassion needs a little work before you try something so selfless. It is also important to point out that there were two little girls hit, one died the other is recovering.

Just for the sake of argument I will point out that the new CPR guidelines teach that if you find someone down and you don't know them you should kick them pretty hard before trying to feel for a pulse. This is to ensure that the person is not trying to suck you in and then attack you. When I got recertified this really shocked me.
posted by whatever at 12:23 PM on February 4, 2003

We were taught to carry a small pistol and kneecap them. If they don't scream then performing CPR is recommended. Those who are a bad shot should first check to see if they aimed too high.

Of course, everyone now gets more extensive tourniquet training.
posted by ?! at 4:47 PM on February 4, 2003

Feel free to call me insensitive, but nobody has brought up the nausea factor. For all the violent movies I've seen, I nearly faint at the sight of actual, real-life blood. Were I to stop in this situation, I'm pretty sure the only thing I would add to the crisis was vomit.
posted by kevspace at 6:09 PM on February 4, 2003

It is kind of sad, but at least it's been studied. Sparked by the Kitty Genovese murder in the '70's, a lot of research (page 3) has been conducted on "the bystander effect," altruism, and "helping behaviour."

You'll be tested on this next week...
posted by statisticalpurposes at 6:48 PM on February 4, 2003

I think it's pretty safe to say that I have a neurotically overdeveloped superego. That means there have been times when I've gone greatly out of my way to help a stranger and there have been times when my social phobia talked me out of it.

It's all very fine to sit comfortably on the Internet and condemn other people's split second decisions. However, one should always understand that spouting a morality and living by it are two very different things. An air of moral superiority breeds complacency.

That being said, I think it's just as important to understand the sociological and psychological aspects of the bystander phenomenon. I suspect that if the drivers saw the accident and didn't stop, they did it out of self-doubt and not out of inconvenience. For instance, here are some of the thoughts that would probably go through my head if I stumbled on such an emergency: Oh God. What can I do? I don't know first aid. I don't have a first aid kid. I don't have a cell phone. I don't even have a blanket. I'm fucking worthless. Maybe she's okay? There must be help coming. If I stop, I'll just get in the way. I'm blocking traffic behind me and that will slow the ambulance. I could comfort him, but if I were in his place, I'd probably want privacy.

Hey. I'm not saying these thoughts are rational. The question is whether or not my moral fortitude would overcome my self-doubt. Frankly, I'm not sure, but I'd like to think so.

Incidentally, these situations are exactly why I oppose our car-centric culture with my lifestyle, rhetoric and activism. That's how I'm using my natural abilities to try to save lives right now.
posted by Skwirl at 4:59 AM on February 6, 2003

« Older Fire in the Sky   |   Brion Gysin Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments