Photo by Ally Hill ‘15
On Friday, Nov. 8, the eve of her first regatta for Lafayette’s club crew team, Aubrey Baumbach ‘17 finished practice. She started walking to a parking lot on Lehigh Drive not far from Lafayette’s boathouse with other members of the team when a dark-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee came around the bend and struck her from behind.
As of printing, Baumbach is stable but in critical condition. She is being held at the intensive care unit of a medical center in Lehigh County after suffering trauma to the head.
Witnesses of the accident approached the Jeep, saying, “you just hit someone,” according to The Morning Call. A man inside the car said, “I’m going for help,” but he did not return.
The next day, detectives from Easton approached the home of Wilson David Kneebone, 49, in Martins Creek, PA. As Kneebone opened the door to the detectives, he said, “I know why you’re here.” Police had identified Kneebone’s car after they searched through surveillance footage near the area of the incident, and he was charged with the hit-and-run.
Last year, Kneebone’s license was suspended because of a drunken-driving charge, the fourth he had received since the 1980s. He was convicted of another hit-and-run in 1997 and of driving without a license in 2009.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Aubrey and her family at this difficult time,” Dean of Students Paul McLoughlin wrote in a campus-wide email. “We are hopeful that she will respond well to the excellent treatment she is receiving at a local hospital. Please keep Aubrey, her friends, and fellow crew teammates in your thoughts today and in the coming days.”
When asked about Baumbach, a chemical engineering major and also a member of club soccer, people who know her described her as extremely friendly and warm.
“She’s very bubbly, talkative,” Ayana Reed ‘17, Baumbach’s roommate, said. “[She’s] very nice, nice to everyone.”
“She’s such a sweetie,” Anjali Fortna ‘14, captain of the women’s crew team, said. “And you can tell she gets it from her parents…very kind. She seems like an upbeat person.”
Others on campus have shown their support for Baumbach’s recovery by having a moment of silence before the men’s basketball game on Tuesday and signing get-well cards to send to her in the hospital.
“We wanted to send words of encouragement and support to Aubrey and her family,” Reverend Alex Hendrickson said. “It was great to see hundreds of students and other members of the Lafayette community write such beautiful notes. It was a positive experience to witness.”
The crew team is currently taking steps to make sure students are safer when walking on Lehigh Drive to their cars.
“As we clean up the boat house for the winter, we’re only sending a few people down at a time to minimize the number of cars/people down there until we reevaluate before the spring season,” Fortna said. “We’ve already written to the mayor asking about reducing the speed limit, enforcing it better, and clearing the shoulder. There have been multiple accidents unrelated to us on that stretch in the last year, but people won’t be running or walking there anymore until we figure out how to better the parking situation.”
The crew team raced as scheduled the day after the accident at the request of Baumbach’s parents.
“We want her friends to know that every one of us is there for support,” Fortna said. “The school has been great in offering counseling for those who need it.”
Kneebone was arraigned on Sunday morning before District Judge Richard Yetter III with a bail of $85,000. He was charged with aggravated assault by a vehicle, driving with a suspended or revoked license, accident involving injury and accident involving injury while not properly licensed.
He faces a mandatory 60-90 days in jail because of the suspended driving charge, plus a maximum of 21 years in prison and $45,000 in fines for all other charges, said a report by The Express-Times.
“I’m sorry that it happened, and I hope the victim is OK,” Kneebone said as he was leaving the courtroom.