A former substitute teacher in Ocean Shores entered a plea of “not guilty” to vehicular assault charges in Grays Harbor Superior court last week.
The former school instructor, Chris Brunstad, is accused of driving his Jeep when it struck a woman and her dog, killing the dog and badly injuring the woman on the morning of May 12.
North Beach School District Superintendent Andrew Kelly told The Daily World that Brunstad was a short-term employee of the district, and he has not worked there since 2019.
The police report stated Brunstad was arrested for vehicular assault and suspicion of driving under the influence based on statements and observations made by the officers at the scene. Brunstad told police that he was following, and daydreaming about, a motorcycle when he looked up and suddenly the victim was in front of him.
The report stated there was no evidence the vehicle attempted to stop in the gravel driveway before striking the victim and her dog. Brunstad told the arresting officer that he had consumed alcohol and his medications earlier that morning. When asked if he felt that impaired his driving he responded, “clearly,” according to the Ocean Shores Police report.
Rose Stidham, 76, suffered a fractured pelvis and her leg was broken in four places when she was struck by Brunstad’s Jeep alongside Ocean Shores Boulevard SW early morning on May 12.
Stidham said in her statement to police that she was wearing a bright periwinkle windbreaker while walking her labradoodle, Gracie. She stated there was no other traffic on the road that morning and the Jeep suddenly veered off the road and directly toward her.
Stidham was transported to Harbor Regional Health Community Hospital in Aberdeen with serious injuries before being airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She said she has undergone multiple surgeries on her leg and pelvis, and now faces months of acute care in a nursing home with the hope of one day being able to walk again.
Brunstad was held in Grays Harbor County Jail for nearly two weeks before his May 24 court date. His next superior court date is on June 21.
“I am deeply grateful for the community response to this tragedy and to their understanding of my suffering,” said Stidham in a statement to the Daily World. She added, “My neighbors have been so kind. They have been maintaining my home. In addition, I am constantly aware and especially thankful for the continuing prayers. These prayers are making a difference. It also makes a difference as I work through the long-term recovery process each day with occupational and physical therapy. Thank you. It continues and I sense so much support. One of my neighbors started a Go-Fund-Me with contributions now exceed $3,600 to date. These funds will be used for my rehabilitation. Ocean Shores is full of care and concern and I am thankful to call it home.”
A fundraiser has been posted at gofundme.com/f/support-rose-while-rehabilitating to benefit Stidham. Friends and family have already raised nearly $4,000 toward a goal of $10,000 to help pay for medical expenses, bills, and any memorial service Rose might want for her dog.