Yucaipa community helps teen run over by alleged drunk driver


"You just get this horrible sense of worry that you can just feel in the pit of your stomach," said Jen Wilson, Downer's mother. "It's a horrible, horrible feeling to know that your child is injured, and you don't know exactly what's going on."

Wilson says she was at work on Friday, June 7, when she got word that her son, a junior at Yucaipa High School, was struck by an apparent drunk driver while he was bringing in the trash cans in front of their home. The driver then fled the scene.

Wilson rushed to the hospital where her son was in a coma.

"I just started crying because it was a horrible sight to see your child unresponsive, on a gurney," she said.

One of Downer's friends says he had just hung out with him the night before.

"I couldn't even tell my mom. I tried to tell her, and I just started bawling," said Majd Kakish.

A week later, Downer still can't talk, but he can open his eyes and move his arms.

"It's really hard to see him, but we know he's there," said Wilson. "We know he's coming back to us, and we know he's gonna be that kid that makes people laugh again, so that's what keeps us going."

Meanwhile, the community is coming together to help the teen. A fundraiser car wash will be held at Yucaipa High School this Saturday, and many of the restaurants around town are making donations too.

As Downer's condition improves, his mom doesn't want to talk about the alleged drunk driver, but his friends say this tragedy has gotten people talking about the dangers of driving under the influence.

"This year at school we actually had 'Every 15 Minutes' for drunk-driving awareness, and to see something like this happen, it makes it real," said Kakish. "Before it was just like a skit put on to just get information out there. But now that it happened in this community it makes things more real, and I hope that it's opened people's eyes."

A witness to the crash followed the suspect and called police. Officers arrested 57-year-old Debra James, of Yucaipa, for felony DUI and felony hit and run. She has bailed out of jail and has yet to be formally charged.

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