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Woman's Memories Erased After Near-Fatal Collision With NYPD Car

By Janon Fisher | September 7, 2017 1:23pm
 Angela Sartin-Hartung did not remember her second husband, Jeffrey, after she was struck by a NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent at East 72nd Street and York Avenue in 2014.
Angela Sartin-Hartung did not remember her second husband, Jeffrey, after she was struck by a NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent at East 72nd Street and York Avenue in 2014.
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Courtsey of the Sartin-Hartung family

MANHATTAN — When Angela Sartin-Hartung woke up in the hospital after being struck by a police car on the Upper East Side, she didn't recognize the man standing by her bed.

"I thought it was the doctor. I asked him to go get my husband," she recalled of the August 2013 crash.

The collision caused blunt force trauma to her head, which struck the windshield of the NYPD SUV before sending her flying into the intersection, knocking out many of her teeth and fracturing her skull.

Her injuries were so severe that Sartin-Hartung didn't realize that the man standing by her hospital bed was Jeffrey Hartung — her husband of 14 years.

The accident had completely erased her memory stretching back to the 2000s, wiping away the death of her first husband, her children growing up, the death of her father and her second marriage to Hartung.

"I have no memory of this car hitting me," she said. "Now I have no memory of the last 15 to 16 years."

She can't remember her first husband — the father of her two children — who died of heart and lung disease in 1998.

"I have pictures of the [second] wedding — gorgeous," she said of remarrying in 2001. "I had no idea that I chose Jeff Hartung to be my husband."

Sartin-Hartung's last memory of her daughter, Abigail, dates back to when the girl was still a toddler, but at the time of the accident, Abigail was already a teenager.

"She can't remember raising her four children," her husband said. "It's been traumatic for the family."

Sartin-Hartung had moved to the city from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2012 to help her daughter, an aspiring ballerina training with the SLK Ballet company. She filled the time in between by taking a job as a part-time nanny on the Upper West Side.

On Oct. 25, 2013, at about 6 p.m., she was waiting for a bus to take her home from work. When she realized that the bus was canceled due to a presidential visit, she started walking home to her Upper West Side apartment.

Like many New Yorkers, she didn't wait for the light to change at the corner of East 72nd Street and York Avenue, according to video of the accident. She rushed across the intersection into the path of NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent Jerome Rodgers's SUV.

Luckily for Sartin-Hartung, a crew manning an FDNY ambulance was also at the intersection and quickly came to her aid, restoring her breathing almost immediately. They were able to get her to Columbia-Presbyterian hospital in just seven minutes, according to her lawyer, Daniel Flanzig.

Sartin-Hartung spent the first four weeks after the accident in the Intensive Care Unit. She was then transferred to Mt. Sinai Hospital for another month of recovery, her husband said.

"She was in rehab for at least six months," Hartung said. "There were multiple fractures to her face and nose. She lost her teeth, broke her orbital bones. There was blunt force trauma to her arms, legs and head, and brain injuries."

Sartin-Hartung also suffered extensive nerve damage and was partially blinded in both eyes. She lost her ability to drive and other cognitive functions, including the memory loss, and her hearing is also off, her husband said.

Despite the fact that she was crossing against the light, the city paid the family $2 million in June to settle a civil suit, because the traffic agent should have seen her in the crosswalk, the city's Law Department said.

"The driver must see what there is to be seen," Flanzig explained. "Basically, he wasn't paying attention. One of the best witnesses was the ambulance driver who saw her straightaway, and he was two cars back."

Law Department spokeswoman Meryl Holt declined to discuss the reasons for the settlement, noting that it was "in the best interests of the parties."

The money helps, but Hartung was adamant that the settlement wasn't a windfall for the family.

"For us the money does help us cope with it," the husband said. "The money helps fill the gaps to make our life more normal. There is nothing in the settlement that takes us above and beyond. She won't be able to get a job."

Sartin-Hartung now lives back in Tulsa, and though her family has struggled with life in the aftermath of the crash, her husband said his love for her is as strong as ever.

"Almost from the day she was hit to today, I was told having a traumatic brain injury ends in divorce 85 percent of the time," he said, "but my love for my wife has seen me through."

Even though they don't live in the city, the couple would like to see better protection for pedestrians and cyclists.

"New York City is a walking, bike-riding city. It's not just a car-driving, bus-driving city. I get that. You can't drive 40 mph. It needs to be 20 mph Period, period," Sartin-Hartung said. "There need to be more pedestrian protection, laws that hold irresponsible drivers accountable."