OCEANSIDE — Manu McKinley’s life changed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but not because of the virus. Rather, it was a vehicle-pedestrian accident that nearly claimed her foot.
A video of the incident shows at approximately 9:35 a.m. on May 28, 2020, McKinley, who had spent time living on the streets in North County, entered the crosswalk at the corner of Mission Avenue and North Cleveland Street when she was apparently struck by a white Chevrolet work van making an eastbound right turn onto Mission Avenue.
According to the Oceanside Police Department’s collision report obtained by The Coast News, McKinley said she had waited at the crosswalk at the southeast curb of North Cleveland Street for the walk signal before attempting to cross the street northbound when her foot was run over by a van traveling at a “high rate of speed.”
“I thought I was dead,” McKinley told The Coast News.
But the driver of the vehicle, Pishgram Daghestany, a Rancho Santa Fe resident working for HVAC company BH Mechanical, also known as BB Electrical, claimed that McKinley had run into the intersection and stuck her foot out to be run over as he was making a right turn, according to the collision report.
Per the report, Daghestany said he knew he had run over McKinley’s foot after feeling the van slightly raise and pulled over to the side of the road.
Ted Dillon, a pedestrian witness, was waiting at the northeast corner of North Cleveland to cross. When the light turned green for southbound traffic, he entered the crosswalk when he said he witnessed Daghestany hit McKinley with the van, the collision report states.
The report identified the cause of the accident as Daghestany’s violation of McKinley’s right-of-way in the crosswalk. Daghestany was not under the influence, according to the report.
McKinley sustained abrasions to her right foot and right elbow and was taken to Scripps Encinitas for treatment. According to her attorney Mike Emrani, of Los Angeles-based firm Emrani Lawyers, McKinley’s foot was wrapped up and she was sent on her way.
“Given she is homeless, they probably wanted to get rid of her,” Emrani said.
Although the police report described her injuries as minor, Emrani said the injury was far more egregious.
In the weeks following the accident, the injury allegedly grew worse. McKinley’s foot became severely infected, and two weeks later someone found her in a Carlsbad park suffering from gangrene with a host of maggots plaguing her foot.
McKinley was taken back to Scripps where doctors wanted to amputate her foot. After begging them to keep her feet attached, medical personnel opted to perform a skin graft to remove the infection.
During this second stay in the hospital, McKinley said she reached out to Emrani for help. Over the past 18 months, Emrani helped McKinley by keeping her in hotel rooms instead of living on the street, providing her rides to doctor visits and assisting her in finding permanent housing. The lawyer also flew her to Tennessee for her to reconnect with her estranged sister of 20 years.
A few weeks ago, McKinley was able to secure a home in Carlsbad. Emrani said his firm is now helping her fill her new home with furniture.
While McKinley’s living situation has improved, her injury has turned into complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, an incurable condition that develops in an area of the body, like the foot, after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack.
“It’s literally the worst diagnosis you can get pain-wise,” Emrani said. “(McKinley) can barely walk now. She uses a walking stick.”
Emrani has filed a lawsuit against BH Mechanical, seeking $10 million on McKinley’s behalf. The case is set to go to trial on Jan. 3, 2022. Since McKinley’s injury, she has accrued about $600,000 in medical expenses, according to Emrani.
“She will be in excruciating pain through no fault of her own for the rest of her life,” Emrani said. “The HVAC company is taking 0% responsibility and the driver lied about her sticking her foot out.”
The Coast News has reached out to Kennedy & Souza, the law firm representing BH Mechanical, and is awaiting comment.
While McKinley said the pain is often unbearable, she remains hopeful about her future. McKinley told The Coast News she loves life, nature and hopes to someday have a fireplace and a little garden.
“The great spirit really wants me alive,” she said.