Wreck complications claim W.Va. teen's life

August 27, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two days after she was injured in a July 25 car accident, 18-year-old Jennifer Hoffman was listed in good condition at City Hospital in Martinsburg.

She died of complications from those injuries at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, according to a family member.

The funeral for the 1997 Martinsburg High School graduate will be Friday.

West Virginia State Police are continuing their investigation of the crash on Boyd Orchard Road and no charges have been filed against the driver, a 16-year-old Florida boy. State police are doing a supplemental report in the aftermath of Hoffman's death.


"My sister was fully conscious for the first few days" after the accident, according to older sister Valerie Franklin of Martinsburg. She said Hoffman and the other passengers in the car were telling the driver to slow down.

Hoffman told her sister the boy was driving 70 to 80 miles an hour when the rented 1997 Mazda Protege ran off the road and hit a tree. Hoffman's boyfriend, Michael Shutz of Martinsburg, said Wednesday the teenage driver was going "anywhere from 60 to 80."

"He was going 80 to 90 mph. She begged him to slow down. We all did," said Jan McDowell, 16, a passenger who suffered a badly broken leg in the accident. McDowell said she spent 12 days in the hospital.

The boy reportedly told police he swerved to avoid another car, but McDowell said, "There was no other car." Shutz also said there was no other car involved.

"They thought she just had a broken leg, but she kept complaining of pain," Franklin said of her sister's first few days at City Hospital. A laparoscopy later revealed a ruptured intestine, which Franklin said caused a widespread infection.

Hoffman was operated on, but a day later began having trouble breathing. She was put on oxygen, but was moved to intensive care and put on a ventilator the Wednesday after the accident, according to Franklin.

The former high school color guard member was diagnosed with adult respiratory distress syndrome, Franklin said. That may have been caused by trauma to her lungs from the crash, she added.

The sister said Hoffman remained in the ICU until about 2 a.m. Aug. 2, when she was flown to the Washington Hospital Center. There "they found her intestine had reburst" and operated again.

"The doctors gave her a 50-50 percent chance to live," Franklin said, but after the operation and treatment with antibiotics, Hoffman began to improve.

"The week before her death they really had high hopes of her getting better," the sister recalled. Hoffman's condition, however, began to deteriorate. Franklin said she developed pneumonia in one lung and the other was partially collapsed.

Doctors ordered a CAT scan which revealed "her lungs got a lot worse," Franklin said. She also developed another infection and the lung problem led to "dry gangrene" in her extremities.

"They told my parents if she did live, she'd be a pulmonary cripple the rest of her life," living in a hospital and connected to a ventilator, the sister said. Jennifer's parents decided to have her removed from life support on Sunday.

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