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Woman who aided injured motorist might not walk again

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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Family and friends gathered at Ruby Memorial Hospital on Tuesday as they waited for word on the recovery of two people who leapt from a highway overpass to avoid a tractor-trailer while tending to the injured driver of an overturned Jeep.

"They chose to help people. Sometimes you sacrifice when you do that," said Jim Boyle, whose daughter was among three people hurt early Monday on Interstate 79 in Greene County.

Alissa Boyle, 22, of Salem, Ohio, might have difficulty walking because of damage done to her spinal cord from the 35-foot fall, her father said. She and fellow Waynesburg University nursing student Cami Abernethy, 21, of Sewickley stopped to help Derek Hartzog, 21, of Washington, Pa., from his overturned Jeep.

The three jumped from the overpass when a tractor-trailer approached in the darkness. State police investigating the incident said the unknown driver of the rig stopped, then drove around the wrecked Jeep before continuing on. Police said the driver might not have seen the people before they jumped, and investigators were not searching for the driver.

Abernethy, Boyle and Hartzog were in fair condition in the surgical intensive care unit at Ruby Memorial.

"She's been in good spirits. She's planning on fighting this thing tooth and nail to walk again," Jim Boyle said.

Alissa Boyle damaged three vertebrae in the fall, one of them severely, and had no feeling past three or four inches below her pelvis, her father said. He and his wife were in Jamaica when they got word of the accident and scrambled to find a flight home, arriving at the hospital about 3:30 a.m.

That Boyle and Abernethy stopped in the first place came as no surprise to those who know them.

"She's a very, very strong person. She would do anything to help anybody," said Alisha Syx, who grew up with Boyle in Salem and has known Abernethy since last year. Of Boyle, Syx said, "She'd do it again. She's just happy she saved a life."

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