A Hillsborough County middle school student was hit by a car while bicycling to school. It happened Monday morning at the intersection of Country Lake and Crying Wind Drives in Carrollwood.
After getting knocked off of her bike and injured, the last thing she expected was to be handed a citation from a deputy. It was a ticket that would ultimately turn into a valuable warning about bike safety.
Elysa Casey, 13, was on her way to Ben Hill Middle School Monday morning.
"I was going pretty fast trying to get to school because I had a game today," the basketball player said.
As she crossed Country Lake Drive, she spotted an oncoming car a little too late.
"She hit the back of my tire and then I kind of flew off and then my head hit the ground and then I went unconscious and I didn't know what happened," Elysa said.
Her mother, Sunny Casey, was already at work when she got a call from a frantic stranger.
"Saying, you know, 'I have your daughter, she's been hit by a car,'" Sunny recalled. "I never would want to wish that upon any parent."
Though Elysa wasn't wearing a helmet, she avoided serious injuries. But, the insult to her injury came in the form of a $153 citation for "failure to stop at a stop sign on a bicycle, causing a crash," handed to her by a Hillsborough County deputy.
"I was baffled," Sunny said. "I didn't understand how they could give my daughter a ticket."
"I sat there so confused," Elysa said. "I'm hurt and I thought something else was going to happen to me and you're giving me a fine because I didn't stop?"
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office confirmed the teen was at fault. However, they said it is the philosophy of the Sheriff's Office to educate rather than cite in bicycle or pedestrian crashes involving teenagers that have not received proper training in driver's education. They ultimately opted to void the ticket.
Sunny was thankful but said, "I feel like all of this could be avoided."
Sunny is still frustrated by the Hillsborough County School District's decision to cancel courtesy busing for 7,500 middle and high school students living within two miles of their schools. That's why Elysa bicycles.
The district tells us they're doing educational work district-wide on ways students can get to class safely, but ultimately, it's the parents' decision as to how students get to class.
"I'm going to fight to get busing back because I'm a single parent and I have to be at work at 7:30, 7:00 a.m."
Though she won't be able to shoot three-pointers for a while, Elysa still attended her team's basketball game Monday night. A Hillsborough deputy met her there with a life-saving gift: a brand new helmet.
"When I used to see people riding their bikes, I'd be like, 'oh, they're wearing a helmet. Well, they're not cool,'" Elysa said. "But, after the accident, I think I need to be in their shoes for once. Next time, I will wear a helmet."
Elysa is taking this lesson one step further. She's already spoken to her principal about becoming an advocate for bicycle safety at her school, encouraging other students to wear helmets and safety gear.