ST. PETERSBURG — The doctors said she may never wake up. But if the young woman opened her eyes, she would not recognize her loved ones. She could not kayak or bike with the sea breeze or teach the Bible to children at summer camp.
So, on Friday night, 27-year-old Hilary Michalak's family gathered in her hospital room to say good-bye.
"I'll always have two sisters," the youngest, 23-year-old Mallory, told her. "I love you."
Nearly three weeks ago, Hilary and her boyfriend, 25-year-old Robert Lemon, were riding a tandem bike on Memorial Causeway in Clearwater when Christopher Patrick Weed, 29, struck the Largo couple with his pickup, investigators say. Lemon died that day.
Weed left the scene but later came forward to say his green Nissan pickup may have been involved in the Sept. 2 crash.
He told officers that he had left his job at Shephard's Beach Resort that day but blacked out on the way home and didn't remember hitting anyone. He approached police after later seeing a report of the crash on the news.
When investigators inspected his pickup, they found the windshield missing and damage to the front and top of the truck.
He was arrested on two charges of leaving the scene of a crash — one for death and one for injury. He remains in the Pinellas County Jail with a bail of $125,000.
Hilary, who suffered traumatic head injuries, remained in a coma at Bayfront Health after the crash. Doctors said she would stay in a persistent vegetative state. Her family — who came from Missouri, Nevada and Michigan — stayed by her side. On Friday, they decided to take her off all means of life support.
Hilary died Saturday at 7:42 a.m.
Her older sister, 30-year-old Emily, said Hilary, who worked at a Seminole church, taught youth groups and was a beloved camp counselor.
"She brought the kids out of their comfort zones in a good way," Emily said. "She was so excited about everything, her enthusiasm was contagious. Hilary loved what she was doing and everyone wanted to do it with her."
She could pull off a good prank, too, her sister Mallory said.
"Once, Hilary pretended her kayak flipped over," she said. "She was really just standing underneath it in 4-foot water. But I jumped in, fully clothed, to 'rescue' her."
Hilary, her family agreed, loved her boyfriend, Robert. They had been "best friends" for at least six years, her sisters said.
"We're glad her last memory was on the tandem bike with Rob," Mallory said. "She was doing what she loved with who she loved."