‘Please don’t let me die’: Victim in DSU crash recalls her terror in court impact statement

DOVER — Her life about to change forever, a confused Shianta Moore stared at the vehicle surging toward her.

The 21-year-old college senior heard someone yell “Move!” but it was too late.

A Mercedes Benz struck her as she turned to run, pinning her to a tree and shattering a festive homecoming Saturday night at Delaware State University.

In matter of seconds on Oct. 24, 2015, Ms. Moore and several others experienced a sudden tragedy that drinking and driving can bring.

Ms. Moore recounted her experience during a victim impact statement in Superior Court on Thursday. Her statement came before former DSU football player and alumnus Gregory E. Ligon was sentenced to two years of probation for first-degree and second-degree (four counts) vehicular assault, and DUI that night.

Several observers described the approximately 10-minute long recollection as “eloquent.” Judge Robert B. Young said “nothing was even mildly over-stated.”

A gate was installed between Conrad Hall and Conwell Hall after a vehicle crash during Delaware State University’s homecoming weekend in October 2015. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The day had been perfect until the crash, Ms. Moore said.

Working two jobs, an engaging role model for her younger sister, nieces and nephews, connected to friends and classmates, Ms. Moore was enjoying the moment of her last homecoming as an undergrad and anticipating a party ahead.

Ms. Moore described herself as “just an all-around good person,” and nothing indicated otherwise.

“For most people, Oct. 24th was just another day in 2015, and while it started off great for me it ended in a way I never could have imagined,” she recalled in court.

“See, I woke up that morning eager to start my day. I had a whole list of things to do. …”

Gregory E. Ligon

Ligon, 28, and living in Mitchellville, Maryland, when the crash occurred, was seemingly living a good life as evidenced later by the “astounding” outpouring of support he received as Judge Young reviewed a pre-sentence investigation.

Prior to the sentencing announcement on Thursday, Judge Young acknowledged that the defendant had “a perfectly clean record” and “[t]his incident seems to have come out of the blue.”

Speaking before the court, Ligon described himself as a “very responsible young man” and “not a troubled person at all.”

Ms. Moore was joined at the sentencing by family members and a lawyer. While announcing his sentencing order, Judge Young cited a civil action as a viable remedy  given the circumstances.

Before DSU’s homecoming in 2016, a gate was placed between Conwell Hall and Conrad Hall near the crash scene as a safety precaution.

Drinking and driving

Unfortunately, a few seconds combining alcohol consumption and driving detoured two young persons’ lives, along with affecting their friends and family, plus other bystanders struck by the car that traveled 120 feet in four seconds, according to police in trial testimony.

The Mercedes Benz careened out of control during a parallel parking attempt near a Greek organization picnic area at approximately 7:28 p.m. Ms. Moore turned to see a white vehicle hopping the curb after first hearing a “loud smacking noise.”

In the midst of chit-chatting, mixing and mingling with her best friend Leah and others in a grassy area known as “the plots,” Ms. Moore couldn’t comprehend that the car wasn’t stopping.

At trial, Ligon maintained a safety device failed when he exited his car still in reverse gear and then made a futile attempt to hit the brake when it accelerated instead.

The vehicle struck several other bystanders on its destructive journey, causing various injuries.

The worst of the danger crashed upon Ms. Moore.

“I remember hearing a smack and feeling the worst pain you can ever imagine rush through my entire body, feeling my body hit the ground, not knowing what was going on and thinking that it was over for me,” she recounted in court.

Lying on the ground, the victim remembered crying out repeatedly “please don’t let me die” and “somebody call my mom.”

Comforted by an off-duty nurse along with her best friend, Ms. Moore’s thoughts raced between expecting death, worrying how her mother would find out and “pleading with God in my head to save me, asking him what was going on and please just stop the pain …”

Clutching her friend’s shirt was critical since “I felt as long as I can hold onto this I’m still here,” Ms. Moore said.

Her body went numb and Ms. Moore remembered hearing “help is on the way,” “stay with me,” and “just stay with me.”

A police officer’s assurance that an ambulance was coming was confirmed by an approaching siren.

“I remember being loaded into the ambulance and crying to the EMT and asking her to save me and not to let me die,” she said.

“I remember hearing the cutting of my clothes and thinking ‘Dang, this is my favorite sweatshirt.’”

Blackout, hazy recollections

She blacked out from there and remained barely lucid with no clear memories for the next five days.

Immediate emergency surgery at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover involved a chest tube to drain blood from internal injuries. Ms. Moore was also placed on a ventilator.

The severe trauma injuries required a helicopter trip to Christiana Hospital for further treatment. Lifesaving surgery on her back offered the possibility of walking again, Ms. Moore said. But a doctor described her condition as “touch and go.”

“For those first few days I was in a medically induced coma and so I don’t remember much,” she said.

“ … I remember some shadows and figures in the corners of my room. I can remember a few familiar faces of those in my immediate family …”

Coming out of her haze, the victim was initially confused and uncomfortable from the tube in her throat that she wanted removed.

Continuing her statement in court on Thursday, Ms. Moore then turned her attention to Ligon.

His ordeal of arrest paled in comparison to her plight, she said. He was released to go home the next morning as Ms. Moore was “still in ICU fighting for my life” as her worried family waited for an uncertain medical outcome. A week in the ICU was followed by a move to a trauma room.

In the immediate aftermath, Ms. Moore’s brother, niece, and nephew ages 5 to 13 had to stay in a hotel due to media scrutiny and television news vans parked outside their home.

The children were emotionally traumatized when they saw her laid up in the trauma room.

“The very first time they were able to visit me my little brother could barely look at me, my nephew didn’t want to be near my bed and my niece, my 5-year-old niece who looks at me as her best friend broke down into a complete puddle of tears and had to be carried out by her father…,” Ms. Moore said.

Another wave of pain re-surfaced with the meeting.

“That look on their faces was just as bad as being hit,” the victim said.

After a month at the trauma center, a transfer to a Wilmington hospital followed.

Ms. Moore spent six hours daily in occupational and physical therapy seven days a week, re-learning how to walk with her broken back, hip, arm and clavicle healing during recovery from surgery.

“Due to my arm being broken I couldn’t push through my right arm, so standing up meant using one arm,” she said. “The back brace I had to wear made me so stiff I felt like the Tin Man.”

Recapturing the ability to hold a fork, write, brush teeth, stand, walk, get in and out of a car was a painful ordeal.

Ms. Moore shared Thanksgiving dinner with her family while sitting in a wheelchair next to a hospital table.

Returning home

A welcomed return home followed a two-month hospital stay. While Ms. Moore was relieved not to be “poked and prodded” each day, her life remained in upheaval.

Several more months of therapy followed as Ms. Moore slept in a hospital bed while being confined to her family’s living room-turned-temporary bedroom.

Her first trip outside alone came in February, and Ms. Moore needed a wheelchair, walker or cane until the end of April.

The original plan to graduate in the spring was derailed and Ms. Moore watched all her friends finish their degrees.

“Mr. Ligon, you have broken me physically, mentally and spiritually,” she said. “So many people who have told me that you are a good person that made a horrible mistake, but I am a good person who did nothing wrong.”

Describing herself as “forever changed” Ms. Moore referenced her missing internal organ, metal implants throughout her body, chronic pain,
post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks and depression and said “that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Life inevitably goes on, and Ms. Moore has struggled while resuming classes at DSU. She focuses “on the same campus where I almost lost my life.
“I look out my classroom window and can see the tree I was pinned against.”

Recovery time discomfort

While Ms. Moore said she didn’t believe Mr. Ligon deserved to serve a maximum seven-year prison sentence, “I do believe he needs some time to think and reflect on his actions, and I truly believe that cannot be done without some time in jail.

“Sometimes you have to have everything taken away from you in order to have an eye-opening experience. I’ve had enough taken away from me …”

The victim pushed for at least eight months incarceration to match the discomforting length of time she recovered in a hospital bed, and referenced the unappealing hospital food she consumed for two months.

“I believe he needs to know what that feels like so he will never even think about driving while under the influence or relying solely on a safety feature again,” she said.

“I do not want there to be a next time. I pray he has learned from his mistakes and seen how simple actions can create a chain of events and change things forever.”

With that, Ms. Moore thanked Judge Young for listening and “allowing me to voice my feelings and concerns on this matter.”

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