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Authorities identify vehicle that hit bicyclist; fundraiser scheduled for victim

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FARGO - The Cass County Sheriff's Office has identified the type of vehicle involved in a hit-and-run accident that injured a bicyclist Saturday night near Harwood, N.D.

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Deputies investigating the incident found an outside rearview mirror at the scene and have identified it as an after-market part belonging to a late 1990s to early 2000s Pontiac Grand Am or Grand Prix, according to Capt. Rick Majerus.

Meanwhile, a fundraiser has been scheduled to defray medical costs for the victim, Jennifer Walla of Fargo, who does not have medical insurance.

The potluck fundraiser will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Red River Adventist Church, 306 N. University Drive, Fargo. Those attending are encouraged to bring a dish to pass and whatever they can afford to put into the donation bucket, according to a news release from the Fargo-Moorhead Vegetarians and Vegans.

Walla was hit from behind by a vehicle at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday while riding her bicycle northbound on County Road 81 just north of Harwood.

Walla had flashing lights on her helmet, backpack and bicycle as she rode near the Brooktree Park Subdivision. She moved to the shoulder when a vehicle approached on County Road 81.

That vehicle veered onto the shoulder and struck her, authorities say. Then, it took off, almost forcing a passing motorcycle off the road as it careened into the oncoming lane.

"I was watching for the car, and then I vaguely remember an 'Oh my God' sensation as I got hit," said Walla, 28, who was taken to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo by LifeFlight and treated for a concussion, twisted ankle and a laceration on the back of her head.

Walla and the couple on the motorcycle could identify the vehicle only as a red, compact car.

Authorities continued looking for the vehicle Sunday after an extensive search Saturday night didn't turn it up.

"This is something very serious," said patrol Deputy Joe Gress. "Somebody had a complete disregard for human life last night."

The department is asking anyone with information on the accident to call them at (701) 241-5800. Bits from the car's passenger side were left at the scene of the accident.

Walla, who works at Fargo's Island Park Cycles, remembers trying to get up. When she couldn't, she asked the driver of the motorcycle to hold her hand. She also recalls telling the medics at the scene she doesn't have health insurance.

She was treated and released at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

She was groggy from pain medication and still in shock later in the day.

"The helmet definitely saved her life," said her boyfriend, Erik Meyer. "She's lucky to be where she's at."

On Saturday night, three Cass County deputies searched for the car.

"We combed through all the towns in the northern part of the county last night," Gress said. "We didn't have any luck."

On Sunday, Walla worried about her hospital bill. She had attended the pro-health care reform rally at the Fargodome earlier on Saturday, and she said the irony wasn't lost on her.

"I'm really hoping they catch the person," she said, "because I'll be in a huge hole if they don't."

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