March 15, 2013

News 14 reporter saw the car coming

Lengthy rehabilitation from skull fracture, injuries expected.

She recalls the accident vividly.

“I remember seeing the two cars running through the intersection and hitting each other, and the headlights turning on me. I knew I was going to be hit a split second later.”

News 14 Carolina reporter Caroline Vandergriff was nearing the end of her 1 to 10 p.m. shift Jan. 30. She was covering the storm blowing through Charlotte, taking video at Kenilworth Avenue and East Morehead Street where the traffic light was out because of a power outage.

Two cars collided and one spun onto the sidewalk, knocking her about 20 feet. Lucky to have landed on the grass, she still suffered a skull fracture and multiple injuries to her pelvis, lower back, left arm and shoulder.

Six weeks later, Vandergriff, 24, is still in a wheelchair and going through physical therapy. Her mobility is getting better, and she expects to be walking soon.

“Every doctor and physical therapist told me how lucky I was in terms of injuries after getting hit that hard,” she says.

“I have my life and my brain. Bones can heal. It just takes time. Being in the hospital and rehabilitation gives me a lot of perspective. I know how much worse it could have been. I’m lucky to have my whole life ahead of me.”

News 14 news director Jim Newman says Vandergriff, who joined the station Dec. 14, only six weeks before the accident, has such a positive attitude that she has inspired others at the 24-hour cable channel.

“About 15 minutes before the accident, I was having a conversation with the evening executive producer about how she was such a good hire. She’s a plucky individual. A lot of people would be saying, ‘Woe is me.’ She’s like, ‘This is only going to slow me down a bit.’ ”

A graduate of the University of Southern California, Vandergriff started her career at the NBC affiliate in Lansing, Mich., where she was a reporter for the morning show.

She liked the work, but was drawn to Charlotte in part because of the weather. She grew up in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, Texas, and wanted to return to the South.

“It was sort of a surprise when I came down for the interview. I had never been here before. I explored the city and really loved it,” she says. “I was ready for a new opportunity and was excited by this job.”

Vandergriff says she was surprised by the attention she got after the accident.

“That’s really been the most amazing thing to come from all this – an outpouring of support from friends and family but also complete strangers who wrote to the station with wonderful get well-cards. It shows how caring people are. People from every station and news outlet have reached out to me. It’s very touching.”

She’s continuing her recovery at her parents’ home in Texas and will return to Charlotte late this month for more medical appointments. “I’m excited to rejoin my life in Charlotte and get back to work and doing what I love,” she says.

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